New Jersey partner Elizabeth Lorell and associate Jeffrey Kopco recently obtained summary judgment in a highly contested employment lawsuit filed against their client, a national company specializing in arbitrating consumer disputes.
Plaintiff alleged that he discovered e-mails involving his supervisors that contained discriminatory content about him. The company conducted an extensive investigation into Plaintiff’s claims and determined that it had appeared that he had modified his supervisors’ e-mails to contain the offensive language. Based upon its belief, the employer terminated Plaintiff’s employment. Plaintiff brought an action before the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, asserting discrimination and retaliation. The EEOC dismissed his claims based upon Gordon & Rees’ submission of its position statement. Plaintiff thereafter filed suit in state court against the company asserting claims under Title VII for racial discrimination and retaliation.
Gordon & Rees successfully removed the case to the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey. After depositions and retention of an expert who confirmed the company’s suspicion that Plaintiff had modified the e-mails, Defendant filed a Motion for Summary Judgment, while Plaintiff filed a competing motion at the same time.
The federal judge denied Plaintiff’s motion and granted summary judgment in favor of Gordon & Rees’ client. In analyzing Plaintiff’s claims, the judge stated that while it appeared that Plaintiff had made a prima facie showing of discrimination and retaliation, the company had proffered a legitimate, non-discriminatory and non-retaliatory reason for its termination of Plaintiff’s employment. The judge further determined that Plaintiff had no support for what was essentially a new allegation – that the company was the one who doctored the e-mails. As a result, Plaintiff was unable to demonstrate that the company’s reason for terminating his employment was pretext. The ruling resulted in the complete dismissal of Plaintiff’s action.