Sex Discrimination Claim Properly Dismissed on Summary Judgment; HR Director’s Failure to Act Resulting in Cost to Employer, Not Gender, Was Cause of Termination

In Ragin v. Riverbay Corp., 20-2233-cv, 2021 WL 4057196 (2d Cir. Sept. 7, 2021) (Summary Order), the court, inter alia, affirmed the dismissal of plaintiff’s sex and disability discrimination claims.

As to plaintiff’s sex discrimination claim, the court explained why the proffered “legitimate non-discriminatory” reason for plaintiff’s termination was not a “pretext” for discrimination.

From the decision:

At the time Ragin was terminated, her supervisor explained that the reason for her dismissal was that she “failed to follow up on the information from Mike Mauro regarding the employees that we had to pay” such that she “cost[ ] the corporation $90,000.” Ragin claims that a rational jury could determine the reason for her termination was pretextual because she “had no responsibility to do anything with the informational email she received on June 9, 2015 from Mauro”; that “Mauro communicated directly with payroll”; and “Mauro’s recommendations were not always followed … [so] Ragin had no reason to believe that those contained in his June 9 email had any more certain status in setting company policy.” Ragin further asserts that no one blamed her “for the mix-up … let alone recommended her termination,” that her supervisor Noel Ellison “falsely claimed” others supported her termination, and that Ellison did not know about the June 9, 2015 email at the time of her termination and therefore terminated her “for other reasons.” We conclude that the district court correctly determined that no rational jury could find that the termination decision was based, in any part, on her sex. [Citations omitted.]

The court further explained that “even if the reason for the termination decision could be viewed as unfair under the circumstances or not fully supported by the record, there would be no basis for a rational jury to conclude that it was motivated, in any part, by sex discrimination” and rejected plaintiff’s “attempt to establish such a motivation, or discriminatory pretext, with a demonstration that similarly situated employees received more favorable treatment.” [Internal quotation marks omitted.]

As to the latter point, the court explained:

In particular, Ragin compares her treatment to that of four male employees who she alleges engaged in serious misconduct and were not terminated. However, we agree with the district court that no reasonable fact-finder could conclude that Ragin, the Director of Human Resources, who failed to act on an email related to a project with which she was involved and instead allowed tens of thousands of dollars in funds to be distributed in her name, was similarly situated in all material respects to the above-referenced male employees based on the information provided about their respective circumstances. [Citation and internal quotation marks omitted.]

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