Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Circuit revives racial discrimination/retaliation claim

I am finding that the Court of Appeals does not reverse summary judgment that often in employment discrimination cases, and that when they do so, they often issue a summary order, which has no precedential value. This is one of those cases.

The case is Henvill v. Metropolitan Transportation Authority, decided on April 20. Plaintiff claims racial discrimination in connection with "command discipline" issued by a supervisor. He also claims retaliation over the removal of summons-issuing responsibilities. One issue on appeal is whether the command discipline was an adverse action under the civil rights laws. If you practice in this area, you know that not every negative decision at work can give rise to a lawsuit. It has to be a significant alteration of the plaintiff's responsibilities. Only then is it worth suing over.

Here, "the alleged effects of the command discipline plausibly constitute a 'material loss of benefits.'" In addition, the Amended Complaint alleges that specific white officers who committed overtime violations similar to plaintiff's violations were not disciplined. This would give plaintiff a classic disparate treatment case. So that claim is revived on appeal following the district court's contrary decision.

The Court of Appeals (Jacobs, Lohier and Geraci [D.J.]) also revives the retaliation claim. Plaintiff alleged that shortly after he filed an EEOC charge, management prohibited him from issuing summonses. This change in duties may have constituted a significantly adverse job action sufficient to support a Title VII retaliation claim, the Court of Appeals says. And you know it's true. What police officer doesn't want to issue summonses?

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