Gender Discrimination Claim Dismissed; “Not a Team Player” Comment Did Not Evidence “Sex Stereotyping”

In Villella v. City of Lockport, 17-CV-898S, 2021 WL 3726103 (W.D.N.Y. Aug. 23, 2021), the court, inter alia, dismissed plaintiff’s gender discrimination claim, based on a “sex stereotyping” theory.

From the decision:

Plaintiff objects to one of Mayor McCaffrey’s reasons for rejecting her for the Assessor position because the Mayor did not believe Plaintiff was a “team player.” Plaintiff argues that this reason was sex stereotyping against strong females. (Docket No. 35, Pl. Memo. at 9.) First, this was the sole instance the Mayor made that statement. Second, Plaintiff has not asserted precedent that the phrase “not a team player” is inherently sexual stereotype. Third, there is no record that the team player statement was a veiled reference to sex stereotypes, but cf. Stegall v. Citadel Broadcasting Co., 350 F.3d 1061, 1072 (9th Cir. 2013) (defendants echoed “the all too familiar complaints about assertive, strong women who speak up for themselves: ‘difficult,’ ‘negative attitude,’ ‘not a team player,’ ‘problematic,’ ” with courts to rejects “such sexual stereotypes”). A single statement as here that Plaintiff was not a “team player” is insufficient to state a claim for sex discrimination, especially as alleged direct evidence of such a claim, Almanza v. Sessions, No. 3:15-cv-389-TAV-HBG, 2018 WL 5262092, at *9 (E.D. Tenn. May 25, 2018); St. Louis v. New York City Health and Hosp. Corp., 682 F. Supp.2d 216, 234 (E.D.N.Y. 2010) (phrase “not a team player” is offensive, unprofessional, or childish, but fails to state a Title VII hostile work environment claim). In Almanza, the court also held that plaintiff Michelle Almanza did not meet her burden of making a prima facie case for a hostile work environment because the evidence did not reflect a sufficient connection with her sex as opposed to “a personality conflict or personal vendetta,” Almanza, supra, 2018 WL 5262092, at *9. Fourth, if Plaintiff was aware of the Mayor’s statement at the time (cf. Docket No. 36, Def. Reply Memo. at 4), she never reported the sexual stereotype, see Meier v. Shawnee Mission Med. Ctr. Inc., No. 18-CV-2368-JWL, 2019 WL 4537264, at *10 n.6 (D. Kan. Sept. 19, 2019).

In sum, the court held that, since plaintiff failed to produce “evidence that her sex was the impetus for the City’s decision not to promote her,” defendant was entitled to summary judgment on that claim.

Share This: