Court Denies Motion for Reconsideration in Race Discrimination Case

In Wallace v. City of New York, 19-cv-4545, 2020 WL 4336391 (EDNY July 28, 2020), the court, inter alia, denied plaintiff’s motion to reconsider its earlier decision dismissing plaintiff’s claim of race discrimination for failure to state a claim.

This decision is instructive both as to what a plaintiff must allege to meet their pleading burden in an employment discrimination case, as well as the (strict) standard for obtaining relief in the form of reconsideration of a court’s prior ruling.

From the decision:

Finally, as to plaintiff’s racial discrimination claims, she argues that I failed to consider whether NYCERS had a non-discriminatory reason for its actions. But this burden-shifting analysis is relevant only on summary judgment, not on a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, and presupposes that a plaintiff has made out a plausible claim for discrimination in the first place. I held that she had not:

[T]hese conclusory allegations are inadequate to state a claim for discrimination because plaintiff has “done little more than cite to [her] mistreatment and ask the court to conclude that it must have been related to [her] race.” Lizardo v. Denny’s, Inc., 270 F.3d 94, 104 (2d Cir. 2001). This is insufficient to “nudge[ ] [her] claims across the line from conceivable to plausible.” See Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570. A court cannot “infer discrimination from thin air,” see Lizardo, 270 F.3d at 104, even at this early stage in the litigation. Because plaintiff has failed entirely to provide any factual allegations that tend to support a claim of discrimination, Counts Two, Three, and Four are dismissed.

Plaintiff’s motion for reconsideration confirms that my prior decision was correct. According to her, she pleaded a discrimination claim because she alleged that (1) she was black, and (2) NYCERS made a bad decision. That is not enough. Causation cannot be presumed merely because of membership in a protected class. She had to set forth facts tending to show that the “adverse action occurred under circumstances giving rise to an inference of discrimination.” Forrest v. Jewish Guild for the Blind, 3 N.Y.3d 295, 305, 786 N.Y.S.2d 382, 390 (2004). No such inference arises merely from the fact that a bad thing happened to a someone belonging to a racial minority.

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