Age Discrimination (Termination) Claim Sufficiently Alleged Against Shanghai Dumpling; Default Judgment Awarded

In Yu et al v. Shanghai Dumpling, Inc. et al, 2023 WL 3728347 (S.D.N.Y. May 30, 2023), the court, inter alia, granted plaintiff’s motion for default judgment on plaintiff’s claim of age discrimination asserted under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act.

From the decision:

Plaintiff’s first cause of action asserts a claim for employment discrimination based on age under the ADEA. Compl. ¶¶ 52-56. To support that claim, the Complaint has the following well-pled allegations, which are accepted as true given the corporate defendants’ default. First, the Complaint alleges that Shanghai Café Deluxe has 20 or more employees, as required for application of the ADEA. Id. ¶ 14; Memo at 1, 8. Second, Plaintiff alleges she is 55 years old (at the time the Complaint was filed) and worked as a waitress at Shanghai Café Deluxe for approximately 13 years. Compl. ¶¶ 8, 31. Thus, Plaintiff belonged to a protected class and was qualified to work as a waitress. Third, Plaintiff alleges she was terminated in March 2018. Compl. ¶ 8. This termination is sufficient to constitute an adverse employment action.

Finally, Plaintiff alleges that on or about March 12, 2016 Plaintiff overheard Defendants Gu, who supervised employees and had to the power to hire and fire employees, and a chef named Xiao Lin speaking about a co-worker named Cindy Chen. Compl. ¶¶ 37-38. Memo. at 1-2.3 Plaintiff alleges that Defendant Gu said to Plaintiff that new young waitresses were replacements for Ms. Chen, and he stated, “Now we continue to employ young employees only, not the old ones anymore” in reference to Ms. Chen. Compl. ¶¶ 38-42. On January 3, 2018, Plaintiff provided an affidavit in support of the age discrimination for her co-worker Cindy Chen describing this conversation. Id. ¶ 43; Memo at 2. On March 27, 2018, Defendant’s location had a gas leak and had to stop operating while the gas line was repaired. Compl. ¶¶ 45-46; Memo at 3. Weng told Plaintiff once the gas leak is fixed, she will call her back to work. Compl. ¶ 46. Memo. at 3. On or about December 22, 2018, when Defendant’s location reopened for business, the entire workforce—with the exception of Plaintiff and her coworker Xingfen Zhou (born 1964) who was then 58 years old—was recalled. Id. ¶ 47. Plaintiff alleges that in February 2019, Plaintiff went back to the Shanghai Café Deluxe to pick up her last check, and at the reopening of the restaurant, a new younger individual was hired to take over Plaintiff’s old position. Compl. ¶¶ 48-49; Memo at 3.

The statement made by Defendant Gu as to Plaintiff’s co-worker sets out a discriminatory reason for Plaintiff’s termination. See Chen v. Shanghai Cafe Deluxe, Inc., No. 17-CV-2536 (VF), 2023 WL 2625791, at *4 (S.D.N.Y. Mar. 24, 2023). Additionally, the statement was made by an individual at Shanghai Café Deluxe charged with hiring and firing employees. The statement is thus sufficient to establish that Plaintiff’s termination occurred under circumstances giving rise to an inference of discrimination. Id. Plaintiff’s allegations are therefore sufficient to meet the initial burden required for a prima facie case of employment discrimination.

The court concluded that since defendants defaulted, they “have not put forth a legitimate, non-discriminatory reason for the challenged employment action and therefore have not rebutted the presumption of discrimination” and, therefore, plaintiff is entitled to damages against the corporate defendants for unlawful discrimination in violation of the ADEA.

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