Race Discrimination (Unpaid Bonus, Termination) Claims Dismissed; Leave to Amend Granted

In Jeanty v. Blue Rhino et al, 21-CV-8326, 2021 WL 4865202 (S.D.N.Y. Oct. 18, 2021), the court granted defendants’ motion to dismiss plaintiff’s employment (race) discrimination claim asserted under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and 42 USC § 1981.

In reaching its conclusion, with respect to Title VII, the court explained:

At the pleading stage in an employment discrimination action, “a plaintiff must plausibly allege that (1) the employer took adverse employment action against him, and (2) his race, color, religion, sex, or national origin was a motivating factor in the employment decision.” Vega v. Hempstead Union Free Sch. Dist., 801 F.3d 72, 86 (2d Cir. 2015). The plaintiff “may do so by alleging facts that directly show discrimination or facts that indirectly show discrimination by giving rise to a plausible inference of discrimination.” Id. at 87.

Here, Plaintiff alleges that he did not receive a sign-on bonus from Blue Rhino, and he was eventually terminated. Plaintiff does not plead facts giving rise to a plausible inference that his race or other protected characteristics were a motivating factor in the employer’s actions. For example, Plaintiff does not plead facts about the criteria for receiving a sign-on bonus, whether he met that criteria, whether others received the sign-on bonus, and what facts suggested to him that his race played a role in the failure to give him a bonus.

As to Section 1981, the court explained:

A plaintiff bringing a Section 1981 claim for employment discrimination must plausibly allege sufficient facts to demonstrate that: (1) he is a member of a protected class, (2) he was qualified for his position, (3) he suffered an adverse employment action, and (4) the adverse action took place under circumstances giving rise to the inference of discrimination. Ruiz v. County of Rockland, 609 F.3d 486, 491 (2d Cir. 2010); McDowell v. North Shore-Long Island Jewish Health Sys., Inc., 788 F. Supp. 2d 78, 81 (E.D.N.Y. 2011) (“At the pleading stage of a Section 1981 discrimination claim, the Court does not apply the familiar McDonnell Douglas burden shifting test used to analyze the evidentiary support for discrimination claims, but rather generally assesses the plausibility of the plaintiff’s claim based on the facts alleged.”).

“[N]aked assertions of racial motivation will not suffice to state a cause of action” under Section 1981. Boomer v. Bruno, 134 F.Supp.2d 262, 269 (N.D.N.Y. 2001)). Instead, “[f]act-specific allegations of a causal link between the defendant’s actions and the plaintiff’s race are required.” Jenkins v. Arcade Bldg. Maintenance, 44 F. Supp. 2d 524, 528 (S.D.N.Y. 1999). Moreover, “[a]n individual may be held liable under [Section] 1981… only if that individual is ‘personally involved in the alleged deprivation.’ ” Littlejohn v. City of New York, 795 F.3d 297, 311 (2d Cir. 2015) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted). Here, Plaintiff’s Section 1981 claim suffers from the same defects as his Title VII claim. Plaintiff fails to plead facts about what occurred or facts plausibly alleging that any adverse employment action that he suffered was because of his race, national origin, or color. Plaintiff’s allegations thus fail to state a claim under Section 1981 against his employer or any individual defendant.

Despite dismissing plaintiff’s claims, the court granted plaintiff leave to amend his complaint to provide more facts about his claims.

It provided the following specific guidance, which is applicable and potentially helpful not only to the plaintiff in this case, but to employment discrimination plaintiffs generally:

In the “Statement of Claim” section of the amended complaint form, Plaintiff must provide a short and plain statement of the relevant facts supporting each claim against each defendant. If Plaintiff has an address for any named defendant, Plaintiff must provide it. Plaintiff should include all of the information in the amended complaint that Plaintiff wants the Court to consider in deciding whether the amended complaint states a claim for relief. That information should include:

a) the names and titles of all relevant people;

b) a description of all relevant events, including what each defendant did or failed to do, the approximate date and time of each event, and the general location where each event occurred;

c) a description of the injuries Plaintiff suffered; and

d) the relief Plaintiff seeks, such as money damages, injunctive relief, or declaratory relief.

Essentially, Plaintiff’s amended complaint should tell the Court: who violated his federally protected rights and how; when and where such violations occurred; and why Plaintiff is entitled to relief.

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