Where a defendant employer has moved for summary judgment on a plaintiff’s claim of pregnancy discrimination, that motion should be denied because a reasonable juror could find that the reason given for the plaintiff’s termination was a pretext.
“Plaintiff Christin Ronzio brings a pregnancy discrimination suit against Defendant Williams Lea, Inc. (‘Williams Lea’) for terminating her employment on the basis of her pregnancy in violation of Mass. Gen. Laws c. 151B, §4. …
“Plaintiff has produced evidence to support her prima facie case: she was pregnant, performed her job at an acceptable level, and her employment was terminated while male peers were retained. Defendant presented a non-discriminatory, legitimate reason for termination. It stated that it had to end her position in order to cut costs because of financial difficulties exacerbated under COVID-19. A reasonable juror could conclude that her termination was pretextual based on three factors.
“First is the temporal proximity of Plaintiff’s pregnancy disclosure and her termination. … Plaintiff notified Defendant of her pregnancy on March 26, 2020 and was terminated on April 24, 2020. Although Defendant insists the decisionmaker, Ms. Denise Reid, learned of Plaintiff’s pregnancy after the decision to terminate was already made, the timing is a fact question.
“Second, Defendant’s alleged timeline for decision-making has shifted during the litigation. In its answer to Plaintiff’s discrimination charge before the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination, Defendant stated that terminations were the result of cost-cutting measures arising out of the COVID-19 pandemic. Defendant, however, claims that Plaintiff was terminated after discussions began in December 2019. This is contrary to the claim that Plaintiff was terminated as a result of a lengthy plan that predated her pregnancy. Plaintiff’s termination decision was not made before the pregnancy, according to Defendant.
“Third, the parties dispute whether Ms. Reid’s choice of comparator masks pretext. …
“Defendant claims Ms. Reid, Plaintiff’s supervisor, compared Plaintiff to Mr. Scott Incognito as the comparator because he shared the same title, sector focus, and region as Plaintiff. Plaintiff claims that Mr. Incognito has a better performance record and was fired. Plaintiff claims that Mr. Incognito was not an appropriate comparator because of his long tenure at Williams Lea. Plaintiff instead names Mr. Griffin Maloney, who was hired around the same period as Plaintiff, as the appropriate comparison. He was not terminated even though he had made fewer sales that Plaintiff. The defendant points out that Mr. Maloney was a specialist in a different industry.
“After viewing the facts in the light most favorable to the Plaintiff, based on these three factors, the Court finds a material fact dispute remains for the cause of the termination.”
Ronzio, Inc. v. Williams Lea, Inc. 02-164-23) (4 pages) (Saris, J.) (Civil Action No. 1:21-11025-PBS) (March 21, 2023).
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