Age Discrimination Claim Dismissed Against Fashion Institute of Technology

In McCourt v. Fashion Institute of Technology, No. 162044/2018, 2023 WL 3175057 (N.Y. Sup Ct, New York County May 01, 2023), the court, inter alia, granted defendant’s motion for summary judgment on plaintiff’s age discrimination claim.

Here, the first three elements of a discrimination claim are not disputed as plaintiff belongs to a protected class, was qualified for the position, and his termination constitutes an adverse action. As discussed above, FIT has demonstrated that plaintiff was terminated for a legitimate, nondiscriminatory reason, namely, his violation of the Written Warning.

The record does not support an inference that Fittinghoff was motivated by discriminatory animus when he made the decision to terminate plaintiff. At 55 years old, Fittinghoff was within the same protected class as plaintiff, “weakening any inference of discrimination that could be drawn in this case” (DiGirolamo v MetLife Group, Inc., 2011 WL 2421292, *11 [SD NY 2011], affd 494 Fed Appx 120 [2d Cir 2012] [internal quotation marks and citations omitted]; see Meyer v McDonald, 241 F Supp 3d 379, 390-391 [ED NY 2017], affd sub nom. Meyer v Shulkin, 722 Fed Appx 26 [2d Cir 2018], cert denied sub nom. Meyer v Wilke, 138 S Ct 2583 [2018] [explaining that, while “members of a protected class can discriminate against other members of that class,” nonetheless, “(w)hen the person who allegedly discriminated against plaintiff is a member of the same protected class as plaintiff, the court applies an inference against discrimination”]).

Moreover, a little more than a year before terminating plaintiff, Fittinghoff had promoted him. While plaintiff argues that he did not want this promotion and that Fittinghoff strongarmed him into accepting it, plaintiff, nonetheless, admits that he was promoted, which negates an inference of discriminatory animus.

The court further rejected plaintiff’s arguments based on alleged comments about plaintiff’s age and asking plaintiff when he planned on retiring, citing the “stray remarks” doctrine.

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