Tuesday, May 6, 2008

It's All In The Timing

In Forde v. Beth Israel Medical Center (06 Civ. 901 - Decided: 4/22/08), the Southern District of New York granted summary judgment to the employer and dismissed the Amended Complaint in a pregnancy discrimination case. The case is interesting because it addresses the issue of the close proximity of employment termination to the Plaintiff's announcement of her pregnancy.

The Plaintiff was employed as the office manager for a staff physician. Apparently, there were significant deficiencies in the Plaintiff’s work performance, including her failures to file transcripts, answer requests for medical records, and to schedule and clear patients for surgeries. Some patients were given the wrong dates for their surgeries, while others were not scheduled for surgery in a timely manner. Numerous complaints were received about the Plaintiff’s work, and she was made aware of her work deficiencies on several occasions.

Plaintiff eventually learned that she was pregnant. She notified her employer of her pregnancy about a week later, after which she was terminated based on her prior poor work performance as well as newly discovered instances thereof. The Plaintiff sued based on allegations that the termination of her employment, made so soon after announcing her pregnancy, constituted unlawful discrimination.

The court granted the Defendants’ Motion for summary judgment dismissing the Amended Complaint. In so doing, the court found that Plaintiff’s poor work performance was generally undisputed and that a legitimate, non-discriminatory reason existed for the Plaintiff’s discharge. The court also found that while timing may be sufficient to establish a discrimination inference, the close proximity of termination to the Plaintiff's announcement of her pregnancy, in and of itself, was insufficient to demonstrate a pretext.

I like this one. In this case, timing is not everything.

1 comment:

Rob said...

I have a problem with the Court making that call instead of a jury. I think that the temporal proximity and the order of events does create a fact issue for the jury. Where there is a fact issue, the matter should be submitted to a jury.