Sex Discrimination Claim Dismissal Affirmed; Court Notes Lack of Detail Surrounding Accommodation Provided to Male Employee

In Knope v. Merrick B. Garland et al, 20-cv-3274, 2021 WL 5183536 (2d Cir. Nov. 9, 2021), the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, inter alia, affirmed the dismissal of plaintiff’s sex discrimination claim asserted under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

After summarizing the relevant “black letter” law, the court explained:

Knope attempts to support her sex discrimination claim by noting that there is evidence that the USAO WDNY allowed one male employee “with a very serious non-physical condition” to stay home for “quite a period of time.” Appellant Br. 25. “A showing of disparate treatment – that is, a showing that the employer treated plaintiff ‘less favorably than a similarly situated employee outside his protected group’ – is a recognized method of raising an inference of discrimination for purposes of making out a prima facie case.” Mandell v. County of Suffolk, 316 F.3d 368, 379 (2d Cir. 2003) (quoting Graham v. Long Island R.R., 230 F.3d 34, 39 (2d Cir. 2000)). However, a plaintiff “must show she was ‘similarly situated in all material respects’ to the individuals with whom she seeks to compare herself” in order to raise an inference of discrimination. Graham, 230 F.3d at 39 (quoting Shumway v. United Parcel Serv., Inc., 118 F.3d 60, 64 (2d Cir. 1997)).

Here, Knope provides no evidence regarding the circumstances surrounding the accommodation provided to the male employee, such that the difference in treatment “support[s] at least a minimal inference that the difference in treatment may be attributable to discrimination.” McGuinness v. Lincoln Hall, 263 F.3d 49, 54 (2d Cir. 2001). In any event, even if the prima facie burden was met, the USAO WDNY has articulated a legitimate, non-discriminatory reason for her termination – namely, that she was medically unable to perform her job at all for an unknown period of time.

Based on this, the court concluded that plaintiff failed to put forth evidence from which a rational jury could find sex-discrimination, and therefore agreed with the district court’s grant of summary judgment on plaintiff’s sex discrimination claim.

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