Age, Race Discrimination Claims Survive Summary Judgment

In Clementi v. Highbridge Community Development Corp., No. 25371/18E, 2020 WL 8369733, 2020 N.Y. Slip Op. 34419(U) (N.Y. Sup Ct, Bronx County Dec. 22, 2020), the court, inter alia, denied defendant’s motion for summary judgment on plaintiff’s claims of age and race discrimination under the New York City Human Rights Law.

In sum, plaintiff, a Caucasian man, asserts that he was discriminated against on the basis of his race and age when, after having worked for defendant for more than 18 years, he was terminated at the age of 66. He alleges that defendant treated him less favorably than younger, Hispanic employees, and then terminated him and ended negotiations on a separation and severance agreement when he complained.

This case is instructive as to how courts evaluate employment discrimination claims under state and city law at the summary judgment stage.

From the decision:

Although plaintiff will bear the burden at trial of proving the there was a hostile work environment and that defendant discriminated and terminated him based on his age, race and retaliation, on this motion, defendant bears the burden of establishing that it did not.

Plaintiff alleges that shortly before he turned 66 years old, defendant reduced his hours and compensation, excluded him from meetings, denied him valuable training and upgraded equipment, transferred his responsibilities to a much younger and less qualified employee of a different ethnicity, whom plaintiff had trained, and then terminated plaintiff and promoted that employee into his position. It is also alleged that this occurred after defendant’s CEO realized plaintiff’s advanced age, and its vice president inquired about plaintiff’s retirement plans, to which plaintiff reported that he **13 planned to work for at least the next few years. Plaintiff also argues that defendant offered inconsistent explanations for its actions. Defendant argues that plaintiff exhibited deficiencies as an administrator and could not meet the evolving demands of the position, and he was terminated only when he would not accept the second such reduction. Based upon the record before this court and the application of the governing standards, the court finds that triable issues of fact as to pretext preclude the award of summary judgment as to plaintiff’s age and race discrimination claims.

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