Menaker v. Hofstra University, No. 18-3089 (2d Cir. 2019)Annotate this Case
Where a university takes an adverse employment action against an employee, in response to allegations of sexual misconduct, following a clearly irregular investigative or adjudicative process, amid criticism for reacting inadequately to allegations of sexual misconduct by members of one sex, these circumstances support a prima facie case of sex discrimination. When contesting an inference of bias based on procedural irregularity, an employer cannot justify its abandonment of promised procedural protections by recharacterizing specific accusations in more generic terms. Where a student files a complaint against a university employee, the student is motivated, at least in part, by invidious discrimination, the student intends that the employee suffer an adverse employment action as a result, and the university negligently or recklessly punishes the employee as a proximate result of that complaint, the university may be liable under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
The Second Circuit vacated the district court's dismissal of plaintiff's complaint against Hofstra under Title VII and the New York State Human Rights Law, alleging that Hofstra discriminated against him because of his sex when it fired him in response to allegedly malicious allegations of sexual harassment. The court held that the district court's decision conflicted with circuit precedent in Doe v. Columbia University, 831 F.3d 46 (2d Cir. 2016), and relied on improper factual findings. In this case, the complaint alleged circumstances that provide at least a minimal support for an inference of discriminatory intent. On remand, the court noted that the district court should consider Hofstra's potential liability under a cat's paw theory.