EEOC Sufficiently Alleges Sex Discrimination on a “Pattern or Practice” Theory, Court Holds

In U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v. Green JobWorks, LLC, Civil Action No. RDB-21-1743, 2022 WL 1213478 (D.Md. April 25, 2022), the court held that plaintiff sufficiently alleged claims of sex discrimination in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

After summarizing the “black letter” law, the court applied it to the facts:

In this case, the EEOC has alleged “evidence of conduct or statements that both reflect directly the alleged discriminatory attitude and that bear directly on the contested employment decision.” Brinkley, 180 F.3d at 607 (quoting Fuller, 67 F.3d at 1142). The EEOC provided evidence that on four different occasions, GJW employees made comments to female job applicants indicating that Defendant would not hire females and did not want female employees operating equipment on job sites. (Compl. ¶¶ 23, 27, 30.) As a result, the EEOC alleges that the Defendant has hired and assigned female workers to demolition and laborer positions at a lower rate relative to male workers. (Id. ¶ 31.)

These comments, like those at issue in Performance Food Group, are direct evidence of discrimination—taken as true, they are sufficient to state a plausible claim of a pattern or practice of sex discrimination.

GJW contends that the EEOC’s allegations are too discrete to plausibly indicate a pattern or practice of refusing to hire females or refusing to place females in demolition and labor assignments. (Def.’s Mem. Supp. 11.) GJW argues that, to state a pattern or practice claim, the EEOC must meet the standard set forth in International Board of Teamsters v. United States, 431 U.S. 324 (1977), which requires “more than a mere occurrence of isolated or accidental or sporadic discriminatory acts.” 431 U.S. at 336. This argument is unavailing. “Pattern or practice” is not a separate legal claim, but rather an evidentiary framework with which a plaintiff may prove discrimination. See Hohider v. United Parcel Serv., Inc., 574 F.3d 169, 183–84 (3d. Cir. 2009) (holding the district court erred in using “pattern or practice” elements to define a discrimination claim); see also, e.g., Serrano, 699 F.3d at 898 (“Teamsters provides an evidentiary framework pursuant to which the EEOC may seek to prove its allegations of intentional discrimination, not an independent cause of action.”) (citing Hohider, 574 F.3d at 183); E.E.O.C. v. PBM Graphics, Inc., 877 F. Supp. 2d 334, 343 (M.D.N.C. 2012) (“A pattern or practice case is not a separate and free-standing cause of action ….”) (quoting Celestine v. Petroleos de Venezuela SA, 266 F.3d 343, 355 (5th Cir. 2001) (alteration omitted)). At the motion to dismiss stage, GJW need only state a plausible claim for relief under Title VII. See McCleary-Evans, 780 F.3d at 585. Direct evidence of discrimination is sufficient to carry this burden. See Performance Food Group, Inc, 16 F. Supp. 3d at 590.

GJW also argues that the Complaint should be dismissed because it “lacks any examples of purported discrimination in terms and conditions,” and “Plaintiff has not identified any specific, objectively verifiable company-wide policy or practice of discrimination.” (Def.’s Mem. Supp. 10, 15.) However, GJW provides no legal basis to support this claim. The EEOC is not required to plead the existence of an express policy to state a plausible claim of a pattern or practice of sex discrimination in GJW’s terms or conditions of employment. See Meritor Sav. Bank, FSB v. Vinson, 477 U.S. 57, 64 (1986) (“[T]he language of Title VII is not limited to ‘economic’ or ‘tangible’ discrimination. The phrase ‘terms, conditions, or privileges of employment’ evinces a congressional intent to ‘strike at the entire spectrum of disparate treatment of men and women’ in employment.” (quoting Los Angeles Dept. of Water and Power v. Manhart, 435 U.S. 702, 707 n.13 (1978))). Here, as in Performance Food Group, Plaintiff has plausibly alleged several comments to female applicants as direct evidence of discrimination, suggesting “a directive to favor males and to discriminate against females.” 16 F. Supp. 3d at 590. Taking these factual allegations in the Compliant as true, this Court concludes that the EEOC has plausibly pled that GJW engaged in a pattern or practice of sex discrimination.

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