Pregnancy/Sex Discrimination Claim Dismissed; Boyfriend’s Personal Injury Lawsuit Against Defendant Was Justifiable Basis For Termination

In McMyler v. Bank of Utica, 19-cv-812, 2021 WL 2778830 (N.D.N.Y. July 2, 2021), the court, inter alia, granted defendant’s motion for summary judgment on plaintiff’s sex/pregnancy discrimination claim asserted under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the New York State Human Rights Law.

After summarizing the relevant black-letter law – including the “burden-shifting framework” used for analyzing discrimination claims – the court applied the law to the facts. Here is the guts/crux of the court’s reasoning:

Plaintiff acknowledges that she does not recall any illegal comments regarding her sex, alleged disability, pregnancy, or familial status ever being said during her employment with Defendant. See Dkt. No. 28-1 at ¶ 11; Dkt. No. 33-1 at ¶ 11. Plaintiff was told just prior to the birth of her child that she would be entitled to at least eight weeks of parental leave. See Dkt. No. 28-1 at ¶ 22. Plaintiff was never denied time off for medical appointments. See id. at ¶ 20. Plaintiff never requested, nor was she denied, any accommodations based on her pregnancy or any other disability. See id. at ¶ 21. When Plaintiff’s employment was terminated, Defendant’s representatives explained that her termination was because of a personal injury claim that Plaintiff’s boyfriend brought against Defendant. See id. at ¶ 38. After Plaintiff’s termination, Defendant indicated that it might re-instate Plaintiff’s employment if her boyfriend dropped his lawsuit, but Plaintiff never followed up with Defendant on this possibility. See id. at ¶¶ 42-45.

Plaintiff has provided no evidence which might lead a reasonable juror to believe that Plaintiff’s pregnancy played any role in Defendant’s decision to terminate her employment. In this case, temporal proximity, absent any other evidence of discriminatory animus, is insufficient to rebut Defendant’s non-discriminatory reason. See Whipple, 2021 WL 852039, at *15. Plaintiff also seems to argue that Defendant’s reason for the termination is pretextual because it knew that it would never be liable in the action brought by Plaintiff’s boyfriend. See Dkt. No. 33 at 5, 11; Dkt. No. 33-1 at ¶¶ 30, 40. However, Plaintiff admits that Defendant was informed by its insurance carrier that Plaintiff’s boyfriend was suing Defendant. See Dkt. No. 28-1 at ¶¶ 35-36; Dkt. No. 33-1 at ¶¶ 35-36. Additionally, the record evidence indicates that all of the communications regarding Plaintiff’s termination involved discussion of Plaintiff’s boyfriend’s personal injury claim and did not include any mention of Plaintiff’s pregnancy or familial status. See Dkt. No. 28-1 at ¶¶ 31, 35-36, 38-40, 42-45. The evidence supports Defendant’s proffered reason: that the termination was because of Plaintiff’s boyfriend’s personal injury lawsuit against Defendant.

Based on this, the court granted defendant’s motion for summary judgment on plaintiff’s sex discrimination claim.

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