Pregnancy Discrimination Claim Survives Summary Judgment; Evidence Included “Demeaning” Remarks About Pregnancy Complications

In Biondolillo v. Livingston Correctional Facility et al, Case # 17-CV-6576-FPG, 2023 WL 2043827 (W.D.N.Y. Feb. 16, 2023), the court, inter alia, denied defendants’ motion to dismiss plaintiff’s pregnancy discrimination (termination) claim asserted under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

From the decision:

Here, while there is scarce evidence to suggest that Defendants’ proffered justifications were pretextual, the primary evidence Plaintiff adduces to comprise her prima facie case— Kennedy’s alleged statements—is sufficient to rebut Defendants’ proffered justifications. While “[t]he ultimate burden of persuading the trier of fact that the defendant intentionally discriminated against the plaintiff remains at all times with the plaintiff,” Burdine, 450 U.S. at 253, Plaintiff has presented evidence that would permit a rational factfinder to infer that Defendants’ proffered rationale is pretextual, rendering summary judgment inappropriate. See Smith v. American Express Co., 853 F.2d 151, 154–55 (2d Cir. 1988).

In this case, Plaintiff presents sufficient evidence to rebut Defendants’ rationale and suggest that her alleged termination was motivated by discriminatory animus. The demeaning and specific nature of Kennedy’s alleged remarks with respect to Plaintiff’s claimed complications with her pregnancy suffice to create a genuine dispute of material fact as to Defendants’ rationale. Because Plaintiff may rely solely on evidence comprising her prima facie case to rebut such a rationale, Plaintiff need not show, as Defendants contend, that her position was filled by a non-pregnant female or male, nor that peers with similar attendance or performance records were retained, nor that others were accommodated under similar circumstances. See Quaratino v. Tiffany & Co., 71 F.3d 58, 65 (2d Cir. 1995); see also Visco, 957 F. Supp. at 388.

In short, Plaintiff adequately presents a prima facie case of pregnancy discrimination under Title VII and meets her burden of rebutting Defendants’ non-discriminatory rationale for her alleged termination. To be clear, Plaintiff does not need a “smoking gun” to prove invidious intent, and the Court emphasizes few plaintiffs will have one. Merritt v. Old Dominion Freight Line, Inc., 601 F.3d 289, 300 (4th Cir. 2010).

The court concluded that since plaintiff proffered “arguably direct evidence as to whether Defendants’ non-discriminatory rationale was pretextual,” her Title VII pregnancy discrimination claim may proceed.

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