Title VII Discrimination Claim, Based on Wife’s Pregnancy, Dismissed; “New Parent” Status Not Protected Class

In Van Soeren v. Disney Streaming Service, 2020 WL 6131255 (S.D.N.Y. Oct. 16, 2020), the court dismissed plaintiff’s discrimination complaint asserted under, e.g., Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

In sum, plaintiff – a male product designer and former at-will employee of defendant – asserted that he was subject to pregnancy discrimination based on his wife’s pregnancy.

After summarizing the pertinent law, including the requirements for stating a prima facie case under Title VII, the court explained:

Plaintiff’s Title VII claim cannot survive the first step of the McDonnell Douglas standard because familial status — such as being a new parent — is not a protected class under Title VII. Under Title VII, it is unlawful for an employer “to discharge … or otherwise discriminate against any individual with respect to his compensation, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment, because of such individual’s … sex.” 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-2(a)(1). The PDA amended Title VII to clarify that the terms “because of sex” or “on the basis of sex” include, but are not limited to, “because of or on the basis of pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions; and women affected by pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions shall be treated the same for all employment-related purposes … as other persons not so affected but similar in their ability or inability to work[.]” 42 U.S.C. § 2000e(k). Thus, whereas Title VII protects a pregnant employee, it does not protect an employee whose spouse is pregnant. See Adler v. South Orangetown Central School Dist., No. 05 Civ. 4835, 2008 WL 190585, at *10 (S.D.N.Y. Jan. 17, 2008) (Title VII does not cover claims “predicated on the Plaintiffs’ status as new parents”); DeFranco v. Ametek Ameron, LLC, No. 12 Civ. 670, 2013 WL 992287, at *4 (E.D.N.Y. Mar. 13, 2013)(discrimination based on familial status alone is an insufficient basis for Title VII claim). Because plaintiff is not a member of a protected class, his Title VII claim must be dismissed for failure to state a claim.

The court noted that plaintiff did not argue that his Title VII claim falls under the narrow “sex plus” exception, noting that “[p]laintiff’s bald allegations regarding disparately treated females are entirely devoid of any details regarding the purported comparators, e.g., who they are, what their positions or responsibilities were at the company, how their conduct compared to plaintiff[’s] or how they were treated differently by defendants.”

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