Pretext Not Shown in Gender/Pregnancy Discrimination Case; Dismissal Affirmed

In Romero v. St. Vincent’s Services, Inc., 2023 WL 3477161 (2d Cir. May 16, 2023), the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit affirmed the summary judgment dismissal of plaintiff’s claims of gender and pregnancy discrimination.

From the decision, regarding plaintiff’s claims asserted under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964:

We need not decide whether Romero established a prima facie case because the record is clear that Romero failed to meet her burden to demonstrate that HSVS’s purported legitimate, non-discriminatory justifications for her termination were a pretext for discrimination. HSVS argues that the reasons for Romero’s termination were her pattern of poor treatment of employees and her insubordination based on refusing to implement a proposal suggested by her supervisor. Romero admitted that she was aware that multiple employees complained to her supervisors about her professionalism and management decisions. In addition, HSVS put forth evidence that, on September 14, 2018, before Romero provided her doctor’s note, Romero’s supervisor and other high-level managers and officers had a call in which HSVS’s executive director recommended terminating Romero’s employment because of the employee complaints and insubordination.

Romero argues that HSVS’s reasons are pretextual because her supervisors did not discuss employee complaints with her, did not counsel her on her management style, and did not follow HSVS’s progressive discipline protocol. She also points to the fact that she received a favorable 2017 performance review as well as a raise and a bonus in 2018, and did not receive an annual performance review in 2018. However, Romero has not put forth evidence to dispute that she was aware of the employee complaints or that the complaints and the belief that she was insubordinate motivated HSVS’s decision to terminate her employment. In fact, her 2017 performance evaluation references employee complaints and the need for additional training related to management skills. Moreover, Romero has produced no evidence suggesting animus toward her protected status or that anyone at HSVS was motivated to fire her for discriminatory reasons. On this record, Romero has failed to establish by a preponderance of the evidence “that the employer’s justification is a pretext for discrimination.”

The court likewise held that dismissal of plaintiff’s New York City Human Rights Law claim was appropriate, since the record established, as a matter of law, that discrimination “played no role” in the defendant’s actions.

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