Gender/Pregnancy Discrimination Claim Survives Summary Judgment Against NYU; Evidence Revealed Inconsistent Explanations for Termination

In Karantzoulis v. NYU Langone Medical Center, No. 160154/2016, 2023 WL 2020047 (N.Y. Sup Ct, New York County Feb. 14, 2023), the court denied defendant’s motion for summary judgment on plaintiff’s gender/pregnancy discrimination claim.

From the decision:

A review of the record reflects that there are triable issues of fact exist regarding plaintiff’s termination and whether the deficit due to her maternity leave, which plaintiff repeatedly complained of to multiple staff members, was a motivating factor for her termination.

A plaintiff may prove that retaliation was a but-for cause of an adverse employment action by demonstrating weaknesses, implausibilities, inconsistencies, or contradictions in the employer’s proffered legitimate, nonretaliatory reasons for its action. From such discrepancies, a reasonable juror could conclude that the explanations were a pretext for a prohibited reason.

Here, there are somewhat inconsistent explanations for the termination of plaintiff. Plaintiff alleges that she was told that she was being terminated due to defendant not being able to “afford” her. Plaintiff testified at her deposition that on July 29, 2016, Dr. Wisniewski and Dr. Marsh met with her and Dr. Wisniewski stated that “everybody enjoyed working with” plaintiff “and that they tried really hard to come up with a way to keep me but that they simply just cannot afford to keep me.” Plaintiff does not testify that she was told any other reasons, other than this explanation, for her non-renewal of her contract at the meeting or in the letter which she was presented.

Conversely, Dr. Wisniewski testified that he did not tell plaintiff that she was being let go because defendant could not afford her. He further testified that he didn’t recall giving plaintiff a reason for her termination because he didn’t “recall what that reason was.” Dr. Marsh also testified that she did not recall Dr. Wisniewski telling plaintiff that the reason for her termination was due to NYU not being able to afford her.

Along with the inconsistency in the reasons provided to plaintiff as to why her contract was not renewed, the testimony of Lawson, Associate Dean for Academic Planning within the Office of Faculty and Academic Affairs at NYUSOM, further raises questions reading what role the deficit created as a result of her maternity leave (which plaintiff repeatedly complained about and alleged was a form of gender discrimination), played in her termination.

[Cleaned up.]

The court concluded that the inconsistencies demonstrated by plaintiff “question the employer’s alleged nonretaliatory reasons for its action to terminate plaintiff’s employment” and, thus, warranted denial of defendant’s motion for summary judgment.

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