Commercial Division Blog

Posted: December 1, 2023 / Written by: Jeffrey M. Eilender, Samuel L. Butt, Seth D. Allen, Joshua Wurtzel, Channing J. Turner / Categories Commercial, Motion to Dismiss

Court Dismisses Racial Discrimination Claims Asserted After Employee’s Termination, Rejecting Pretext Arguments

In a Decision, dated October 4, 2023, in Arthur W. Williams, M.D., v. Mountain Sinai Health System, Inc., Index No. 160367/2019, Justice Melissa A. Crane granted Mount Sinai Health System’s motion for summary judgment on claims of racial discrimination asserted by a former attending neurosurgeon.  The Court found that the hospital had proffered legitimate, nondiscriminatory reasons for terminating the plaintiff’s employment and staff privileges.  It also rejected the plaintiff’s argument that these reasons were pretextual, noting that the record contained evidence of numerous complaints and suggested that the plaintiff’s patient care and medical judgment were questionable. The Court also rejected the plaintiff’s argument about disparate treatment premised on the hospital affording another terminated employee time to find a new job, whereas it had terminated him immediately.  The Court explained:

In today’s world, discrimination can be less visible and more likely to involve insidious subtleties and microaggressions. Here though, there is no evidence amounting to actionable discrimination. The evidence shows that plaintiff would have had more time to find a new job, just like Dr. Comparator, had he resigned. While demanding resignation in exchange for more time, or else face immediate termination, may appear to be a heavy handed employment tactic, and not particularly gracious to someone who had worked at the same facility for many years, it does not mean discrimination occurred.

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