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HANSEN v. DEAN WITTER REYNOLDS

May 31, 1995

MICHELE HANSEN, Plaintiff, against DEAN WITTER REYNOLDS, INC., Defendant.


The opinion of the court was delivered by: HAROLD BAER, JR.

 HAROLD BAER, JR., *fn1" District Judge

 Plaintiff Michele Hansen ("Hansen") brought this action under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq., the Pregnancy Discrimination Act, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e(k), and the New York Human Rights Law, N.Y. Exec. Law § 296 (McKinney 1993), claiming sex and pregnancy discrimination by her former employer defendant Dean Witter Reynolds Inc. ("Dean Witter") in the termination of her employment as Dean Witter's Assistant Vice President/Intermediate Mortgage-Backed "Repo" Trader.

 The bench trial took place on January 27, 30, and 31, and February 23, 1995. I find that plaintiff has failed to establish that (1) Dean Witter terminated her on the basis of her sex and/or her pregnancy, or that (2) Dean Witter's reasons for terminating her employment were pretextual. Plaintiff's complaint must therefore be dismissed.

 I. BACKGROUND

 Plaintiff Hansen was hired by Dean Witter in January 1982 as a Bank Reconciliations Clerk, a clerical position. Plaintiff received several promotions during the course of her employment with Dean Witter. In 1985, plaintiff worked on the Fixed Income Division "Repo" Trading Desk, where she performed "repo trades," which consist of loans secured by the transfer of securities, which securities are repurchased when the debtor pays back the loan. In the fall of 1988, plaintiff worked on the Transactional Finance Unit repo trading desk ("TFU desk"). Plaintiff, along with Melvyn Relova and Michael Conry, occupied the TFU desk. Plaintiff was an Intermediate Mortgage-Backed Repo Trader on the desk when Dean Witter terminated her employment on September 14, 1989.

 II. THE LAW

 A. RELEVANT STATUTES

 Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-2(a)(1), provides that it is unlawful for "an employer to fail or refuse to hire or to discharge any individual . . . with respect to his [or her] compensation, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment, because of such individual's race, color, religion, sex or national origin." In 1978, pregnancy discrimination was also expressly prohibited as constituting impermissible discrimination on the basis of sex. 42 U.S.C. § 2000e(k). The New York State equivalent of the federal Title VII protections are found in the New York Human Rights Law, N.Y. Exec. Law § 296.

 B. BURDEN OF PROOF FOR SEX AND PREGNANCY DISCRIMINATION CLAIMS

 One manner of establishing a prima facie case of sex discrimination under Title VII involves plaintiff showing that she was treated less favorably than comparable male employees in circumstances from which a gender-based motive could be inferred. Montana v. First Fed. Sav. & Loan Ass'n, 869 F.2d 100, 106 (2d Cir. 1989); Zahorik v. Cornell Univ., 729 F.2d 85, 93-94 (2d Cir. 1984). Plaintiff must prove her prima facie case by a preponderance of the evidence. St. Mary's Honor Ctr. v. Hicks, 125 L. Ed. 2d 407, 113 S. Ct. 2742, 2746 (1993).

 Once plaintiff has established her prima facie case, the burden shifts to the defendant to show that unlawful discrimination did not cause the subject employment action. If the employer has articulated a legitimate reason for the challenged employment decision, plaintiff must establish that the proffered reason is a pretext for discrimination. Texas Dep't of Community Affairs v. Burdine, 450 U.S. 248, 256, 67 L. Ed. 2d 207, 101 S. Ct. 1089 (1981). The ultimate burden of persuasion, as always, rests with the plaintiff to persuade the factfinder that the defendant intentionally discriminated against her. This may be accomplished "either directly by persuading the court that a discriminatory reason more likely motivated the employer or indirectly by showing that the employer's proffered explanation is unworthy of credence." Burdine, 450 U.S. at 256. Finally, the burden of proof is the same for both the federal and state actions. Tyler v. Bethlehem Steel Corp., 958 F.2d 1176, 1180 (2d Cir.), cert. denied, 121 L. Ed. 2d 46, 113 S. Ct. 82 (1992).

 III. APPLICATION TO THE INSTANT ACTION

 At trial, plaintiff's claim that her discharge from Dean Witter resulted from sex and pregnancy discrimination relied heavily on Dean Witter's decision to retain Relova, a man, on its TFU desk. Relova was the sole trader left at the TFU desk at the time of plaintiff's discharge. Plaintiff attempted in her case-in-chief to show that Relova was less qualified than she, and therefore, that her termination from Dean ...


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