Retaliation Sufficiently Alleged Against Shake Shack et al

In Farmer v. Shake Shack Enterprises, LLC et al, 2020 WL 4194860 (S.D.N.Y. July 21, 2020) (J. Engelmayer), the court, inter alia, denied defendants’ motion to dismiss plaintiff’s claims of retaliation asserted under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the New York State Human Rights Law, and the New York City Human Rights Law.

While the complaint was devoid of allegations of direct evidence of retaliatory animus directed towards plaintiff, it nevertheless alleged sufficient facts to show retaliatory animus indirectly in the form of a close temporal relationship between the protected activities and adverse action (termination).

From the decision:

[R]etaliatory motivation can be plausibly inferred from the assembled allegations in the [complaint], in particular, based on the close temporal proximity of Farmer’s termination relative to her protected activities. See Zann Kwan, 737 F.3d at 845 (“[A] plaintiff can indirectly establish a causal connection to support a … retaliation claim by showing that the protected activity was closely followed in time by the adverse [employment] action.” (citation omitted)). Although the Second Circuit has “not drawn a bright line to define the outer limits beyond which a temporal relationship is too attenuated to establish a causal relationship,” Gorman-Bakos v. Cornell Co-op. Extension of Schenectady Cty., 252 F.3d 545, 554 (2d Cir. 2001), the Supreme Court has suggested that the temporal proximity “must be very close,” Clark Cty. Sch. Dist. v. Breeden, 532 U.S. 268, 273 (2001) (per curiam) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted).

*14 That standard is met given the close proximity of the relevant events as pled here. In mid-December 2018, Farmer made multiple requests to Jeffreys #1 and #2 to be moved. See AC ¶ 49. In late December, she complained to Leon, after which supervisors treated her worse. See id. ¶ 52. On January 1, 2019, Cordova questioned Farmer about her work performance and challenged her claim of pregnancy. See id. ¶¶ 54–59. And four days later, on January 5, 2019, Cordova fired Farmer. See id. ¶¶ 63–70. At most, three weeks separated Farmer’s first request for an accommodation and her firing. See Zann Kwan, 737 F.3d at 845 (three-week period between complaint and termination sufficient to show causal connection); see also, e.g., Feliciano v. City of New York, No. 14 Civ. 6751 (PAE), 2015 WL 4393163, at *10 (S.D.N.Y. July 15, 2015) (collecting cases requiring adverse action to occur within approximately two months of plaintiff’s protected activity). These events plausibly plead a causal connection.

Furthermore, since plaintiff sufficiently alleged retaliation under Title VII and the New York State Human Rights Law, she necessarily sufficiently alleged retaliation under the comparatively broader New York City Human Rights Law.

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