Equal Protection Discrimination Claim Dismissed, Absent Sufficient Information Pertaining to Alleged Comparators

In White v. City of Long Beach, Comptroller Inna Resnick et al, CV 22-5628 (GRB)(ARL), 2024 WL 693773 (E.D.N.Y. Feb. 20, 2024), the court granted defendants’ motion to dismiss plaintiff’s employment discrimination claim.

From the decision:

Defendants seek dismissal of plaintiff’s Equal Protection claim on the basis that she failed to sufficiently allege she was treated differently than similarly situated employees. The Fourteenth Amendment, as made actionable by 42 U.S.C. § 1983, provides public employees with the right to be free from discrimination. At the pleadings stage of an employment discrimination case, a plaintiff has a minimal burden’ of alleging facts ‘suggesting an inference of discriminatory motivation. But the facts alleged must provide “at least minimal support for the proposition that the employer was motivated by discriminatory intent.

A showing of disparate treatment—that is, a showing that an employer treated plaintiff less favorably than a similarly situated employee outside his protected group—is a recognized method of raising an inference of discrimination for the purposes of making out a prima facie case. A plaintiff can raise an inference of discrimination by demonstrating the disparate treatment of at least one similarly situated employee outside [her] protected group and sufficient facts from which it may reasonably be inferred that ‘the plaintiff’s and comparator’s circumstances bear a reasonably close resemblance. A plaintiff relying on disparate treatment evidence must show she was similarly situated in all material respects to the individuals with whom she seeks to compare herself.

Here, plaintiff has failed to sufficiently raise an inference of discrimination by demonstrating the disparate treatment. In various instances, the SAC refers to purported comparators such as Tommy Larson, Erin D’Antonio, Danielle Ford, Patrick Larson, Rita Butler, Robert Rykowski, Allen Horowitz, Mindy Abrams, and Julie Halfon. While plaintiff provides the titles of some of these individuals, the SAC is silent as to their duties, responsibilities, workplace conditions, qualifications, or quality of their work. And to the extent that plaintiff does supply some information concerning these purported comparators, such as their titles, those allegations provide little support. Accordingly, plaintiff has failed to meet its burden in establishing disparate treatment and her Equal Protection claim is DISMISSED without prejudice.

[Citations, ellipses, internal quotation marks omitted.]

The court did, however, grant plaintiff’s request for leave to file an amended complaint to address this pleading deficiency.

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