How Your Opponent’s Violation of Discovery Rules Can Help Your Race Discrimination Case in New York

In any discrimination and/or harassment lawsuit, there are two elements that are essential to success. Obviously, you’ll need to have to present a case where the facts and the law are on your side. Before you can do that, though, you have to acquire the evidence necessary to establish that factual basis. Much of this acquisition process occurs through pre-trial discovery and the exchange of information with the other side. Sometimes, though, the other side doesn’t follow the rules in engaging in the discovery process and, when that happens, you need a skilled New York employment discrimination who can advocate effectively for you to address the situation.

The race discrimination case of R.E., a Black woman employed as a personal training manager by a chain of luxury fitness clubs, shows how all these pieces can come together.

During her last three months on the job, R.E. allegedly experienced racial harassment on multiple occasions and complained about the incidents, but her employer failed to “properly investigate or address” the situations.

C.M., a white man (and one of the trainers R.E. supervised) allegedly perpetrated many acts of improper conduct, most of which involved C.M. making “objectifying and denigrating comments to [R.E.] and her colleagues about women’s sexuality and their bodies.”. These included commenting on the physical appearance of Black female members (including their breasts,) and opining that a trans woman at the gym “was very hot considering she was a man,” according to R.E.

A particularly egregious incident — one that did not involve C.M. — allegedly occurred in June 2019. According to the complaint, a member specifically requested that the trainer assigned to them be a white man. R.E. complained to her supervisor and advised strongly against granting the member’s request. Nevertheless, the club appeared to have granted the member’s request, according to R.E.

Allegedly, the employer responded to her complaints by engaging in retaliation, trumping up disciplinary actions against her for “poor attendance and punctuality.” The employer ultimately fired her for that reason in late September 2019.

In a hostile work environment case like R.E.’s, you can succeed by showing that the employer treated you less favorably than similarly situated coworkers who were outside your protected class. In this case, evidence that similarly situated non-Black coworkers were also late to work as frequently as R.E. was, yet the employer terminated none of them would strengthen her claim that the employer’s stated reason for firing her actually was a pretext for race discrimination.

What You Can Do When the Other Side Didn’t Comply with Your Discovery Request

The employer, however, never produced the work schedule for September 2019, as R.E.’s legal team had requested. When that happens, you have options under the law and the rules of procedure. You can file a motion alleging that the other side’s action amounted to improper “spoliation” of evidence. If the court agrees, then the court may impose a penalty on the other side, which can significantly benefit your case. Penalties can range from things like special jury instructions to barring certain arguments from the other side to striking certain of the other side’s pleadings.

R.E.’s lawyer made that kind of motion and the judge ordered that, because the employer did not produce the September 2019 schedule, it was not allowed to argue that R.E.’s “attendance was worse than her coworkers in the month of September 2019.”

After R.E. won that motion, the issue of the employer’s allegedly disparate treatment of various similarly situated employees’ tardiness proved to be a key to her defeating her employer’s motion for summary judgment. In ruling against the employer, the trial judge made several crucial determinations. One was that the employer’s “expectations for the plaintiff and [J.T., a non-Black manager] with respect to timeliness were the same. A second was that a legitimate factual dispute existed regarding whether or not J.T. was tardy as often as R.E. was. Furthermore, the court also noted that R.E. had sufficient evidence that she and J.T. “were not disciplined comparably for their comparable conduct.” That was enough to prove “circumstances giving rise to an inference of discrimination.” C.M.’s multiple instances of inappropriate conduct and comments also served as “evidence of discriminatory environment and support the plaintiff’s claim that her disparate treatment was due to her” race.

The successful pursuit of an employment discrimination case is a series of smaller successes. Some are related to the law, while others have more to do with the rules of procedure. For your race discrimination case, count on the skilled New York race discrimination attorneys at Phillips & Associates to be the effective advocate you need at all points in the process. To find out more, contact us online or at (833) 529-3476 to set up a free and confidential consultation today.

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