“Reverse” Sex Discrimination Claim, Asserted by Male Employee, Properly Dismissed, Second Circuit Holds

In Bockus v. Maple Pro, Inc., 850 Fed.Appx. 48 (2d Cir. March 19, 2021) (Summary Order), the court affirmed the dismissal of plaintiff’s sex discrimination claim asserted under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

The court summarized plaintiff’s allegations as follows:

The complaint alleges that Bockus was terminated because he is a man and due to his age (as he was 58 years old at the time of his termination). According to the complaint, in 2019, Bockus received a termination notice from Maple Pro—his employer of nearly 13 years—stating: “[W]e recently received complaints about some inappropriate behavior done by you toward coworkers. Following these complaints, we conducted an investigation that brought to light a pattern of disrespectful and inappropriate conduct with many of your coworker[s].” App’x at 4. During the course of his subsequent application for unemployment benefits, Bockus further learned that the investigation specifically related to complaints that he had sexually harassed certain of his coworkers. Bockus highlights that Maple Pro neither spoke with him about the allegations during its investigation nor provided him with the details of his coworkers’ complaints. Furthermore, according to Bockus, the Vermont Department of Labor determined that the sexual harassment allegations were unsubstantiated.

After reviewing the black letter law governing plaintiff’s claim, the court applied it and explained the basis for its decision:

With these principles in mind, we conclude that the district court properly dismissed Bockus’s Title VII claim.2 In Bockus’s own words, “[t]he gist of [his] sex discrimination claim is that th[e] decision to terminate [his] employment without even talking with him about the allegations was based on sex stereotyping that men accused of sexual harassment are likely guilty of it.” Appellant’s Br. at 11. Yet, even though he worked there for nearly 13 years, he does not allege that anyone at Maple Pro ever said or did anything that suggested, prior to his termination, that Maple Pro treated men less favorably as a group, or otherwise operated on the basis of sex stereotyping. Instead, Bockus exclusively relies on “the sequence of events leading to [his] discharge”—namely, the failure to interview him regarding the sexual harassment allegations—to attempt to raise an inference that Maple Pro’s decision to terminate him was motivated by discriminatory sex stereotyping. Littlejohn, 795 F.3d at 312. However, we agree with the district court that his threadbare allegations in that regard cannot sustain even the “minimal burden” of raising an inference that Maple Pro was motivated by discriminatory intent. See id. at 311. In fact, his complaint is so conclusory that, while claiming sex stereotyping, it does not even identify the gender of the co-workers allegedly subject to harassment by him. In short, his generalized allegations do not move his complaint “across the line from conceivable to plausible.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570, 127 S.Ct. 1955.

Based on this, the court affirmed the lower court decision to dismiss plaintiff’s gender discrimination claim.

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