Gender-Based Discriminatory-Demotion Claim, Arising From Alleged “Selective Enforcement” of Lunch Break Regulation, Survives Summary Judgment

In Olin v. Rochester City School District, 2022 WL 967707 (W.D.N.Y. March 31, 2022), the court, inter alia, denied defendants’ motion to dismiss plaintiff’s gender discrimination claims asserted under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the New York State Human Rights Law.

In evaluating plaintiff’s discriminatory-demotion claims, the court applied the well-established “McDonnell Douglas burden-shifting framework” under which plaintiff must first present a “prima facie case”, after which the burden shifts to defendants to articulate a “legitimate, nondiscriminatory reason” for the adverse action(s), after which, finally, a plaintiff is tasked with demonstrating that those articulated reason(s) were a mere “pretext” for discrimination.

As to the first two steps, the court explained:

Here, the first three elements of plaintiff’s prima facie case – that plaintiff is a member of a protected class, that she was qualified for her position, and that she was subjected to an adverse employment action in the form of a demotion … are undisputed. Given the minimal threshold for demonstrating circumstances that permit an inference of discrimination, the Court finds that plaintiff’s testimony that she was the only woman in her department during the relevant period, and evidence that she was singled out for discipline for engaging in conduct that was routinely tolerated in male coworkers, is sufficient to raise an inference of discrimination, for purposes of establishing her prima facie case. Defendants have articulated a legitimate, nondiscriminatory reason for plaintiff’s demotion – specifically, plaintiff’s having routinely taken extended lunch breaks, which she admits having done.

Thus, the court next turned to “the question of whether plaintiff has come forward with evidence sufficient to rebut that reason, by which a reasonable finder of fact might conclude that the reason was pretextual, and that plaintiff’s demotion was motivated by gender-based discrimination.”

Ultimately, it concluded that plaintiff produced sufficient evidence (GPS records, investigatory records, and co-worker testimony) to demonstrate, if credited, that the lunch break “regulation” was selectively enforced against plaintiff (the only woman in her department) and that that selective enforcement and resulting demotion were motivated by gender-based discrimination.

Share This: