The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit affirmed a summary judgment in favor of Davis Polk & Wardwell Tuesday in a discrimination case filed by an employee of the firm.
U.S District Judge Frederic Block of the Eastern District of New York granted the firm’s summary motion to dismiss the suit filed by Eunice Martinez, a Hispanic employee who claimed racial discrimination and retaliation against her filing of a U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission complaint in 2013.
The panel of Circuit Judges Rosemary Pooler, Debra Ann Livingston and Denny Chin agreed with Block’s decision, finding that Martinez failed to establish required prima facie discrimination and retaliation cases in Martinez v. Davis Polk & Wardwell, 16-3476-cv.
Martinez’s claims that she and other Hispanic employees were paid less than non-Hispanic coworkers failed, the panel found. Martinez acknowledged in a brief that she holds a unique position that has no point of comparison at the firm, and said during deposition that she did not possess the qualifications for other jobs he proposed as comparison positions. And, in fact, the panel found, Martinez’s nonmanagerial total salary at times exceeded that of some other managerial employees during the years in question.
Likewise, Davis Polk’s failure to upgrade what they considered an administrative and clerical role for Martinez into a managerial one was not shown by Martinez to be done pretextually, according to the panel.
“We do not second-guess an employer’s personnel decision, so long as those decisions are not based on unlawful grounds such as racial discrimination,” they stated.
The panel also agreed with Block that there was no substantive connection between Martinez’s EEOC complaint and the giving of a reduced raise. The panel noted that, during deposition, Martinez acknowledged that at the time she filed the complaint, she was already anticipating a negative performance review, which continued a pattern over the preceding three years. She was even concerned about being fired because of it.
A reasonable jury, then, could not conclude the firm’s treatment of Martinez in the wake of the complaint, in which she still received a pay raise, was retaliatory, the panel found.
Epstein Becker & Green firm member Barry Asen represented Davis Polk on the appeal. He declined to comment.
Martinez was represented by private attorney Roosevelt Seymour, who could not be reached for comment.