Monday, June 7, 2010

Court of Appeals shoots down Title VII discrimination claim

The Second Circuit holds that a black principal on Long Island cannot make out a discrimination claim under Title VII and other civil rights because he does not have a prima facie case or any evidence that the alleged mistreatment was a pretext for discrimination.

The case is McIntyre v. Longwood Central School District, a summary order decided on June 4. Plaintiff's best evidence seems to be that he received only a 17 percent raise under the union contract, while other employees got raises ranging from 27-37 percent.

The retaliation claim fails because, while he did file an EEOC charge of racial discrimination in October 2004, the union contract was signed in spring 2006. That time-gap is too long to permit an inference of retaliation. In layman's terms, this means that if management wanted to screw over McIntyre, it would have done so earlier. Without other evidence of retaliatory intent (which plaintiff does not have), the causal connection cannot extend beyond a few months in this jurisdiction.

The disparate pay raises in the union contract also cannot support an inference of discrimination. This is a factually-dense holding against McIntyre that looks at what he was actually making compared with other employees. What it boils down to is that he was still a well-paid administrator. The Second Circuit summarizes the evidence in holding there can be no inference of race, age or gender:

As the District Court noted, (1) McIntyre was the highest paid member of the [Middle Island Administrator's Association] before the CBA was negotiated, and he was the 13th highest paid junior high school principal in the county, while many of the other members of the MIAA were among the lowest paid employees in the county in their respective positions; (2) the only other black male member of the MIAA received the highest salary increase of the group; (3) the second-highest paid member of the MIAA after plaintiff, a white female who was at the same managerial level as McIntyre (and who was also, it happens, president of the MIAA) received essentially the same treatment he did; (4) three of the other four black members of the MIAA received the highest percentage, or near the highest percentage, salary increases; (5) the seven other male members of the MIAA received salary increases ranging from 36% to 43.5%; (6) the white male high school principal whom McIntyre alleges received a higher salary than he did was hired after the CBA was negotiated, and, moreover, is not similarly situated to the plaintiff in that he is principal of one of the largest high schools in the county; (7) the seven male administrators, five black administrators (excluding McIntyre), and one Hispanic administrator in the MIAA all received salary increases ranging from 33.2% to 43.5%; and (8) two of the four members of LCSD’s negotiating team were males—one was a 56-year-old white female and one was a 62-year-old black female.

Summary orders do not tell us everything about the case, but the facts in the above paragraph do not bode well for a discrimination claim. The Court of Appeals is rather aggressively looking at the totality of the evidence in finding that, whatever grieves McIntyre, it cannot be on the basis of age, race or gender. Mind you, the above analysis only covers the prima facie of discrimination, which is a de minimus standard. After reaching that conclusion, the Court completes the inquiry by holding that management articulated a neutral reason for the pay disparities: to ensure that salaries for higher level administrators like McIntyre remain below those received by senior management.

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