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Elira Govori v. Goat Fifty

March 30, 2011

ELIRA GOVORI,
PLAINTIFF,
v.
GOAT FIFTY, L.L.C. D/B/A NELSON BLUE BAR AND GRILL AND FRANK CASANO, INDIVIDUALLY, AS OWNER. DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Denise Cote, District Judge:

OPINION & ORDER

Plaintiff Elira Govori ("Govori") has brought this employment discrimination action against her former employer, Goat Fifty, L.L.C. d/b/a Nelson Blue Bar and Grill and its manager, Frank Casano (collectively "Goat Fifty"), under Title VII and the New York State and New York City sex discrimination laws. Govori alleges that she was fired after she announced her plans to undergo in vitro fertilization ("IVF"). Goat Fifty has moved to dismiss for failure to state a claim, arguing that Govori cannot prove sex discrimination because infertility is a gender-neutral condition. Because Govori has stated a cognizable claim for sex-based discrimination under Title VII, Goat Fifty's motion to dismiss is denied.

BACKGROUND

The Complaint asserts three causes of action: sex discrimination in violation of the Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 ("Title VII"), 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-2 et seq., as amended by the Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978 (the "PDA"), 42 U.S.C. § 2000e(k); sex discrimination in violation of New York State Executive Law § 296(1); and sex discrimination in violation of New York City Administrative Code § 8-107(a). The Complaint principally argues that Goat Fifty unlawfully discriminated against Govori by firing her for undergoing IVF.

Govori was employed as a server at Nelson Blue Bar and Grill ("Nelson Blue"), an establishment owned and operated by Goat Fifty in the South Street Seaport District of New York City. Govori alleges that the female servers and bartenders at Nelson Blue were encouraged to be flirtatious with patrons as part of their job responsibilities. Govori describes her relationship with her supervisors at Nelson Blue as "very cordial and friendly." Indeed, Govori discussed her hopes of becoming a mother with her two female supervisors, Michelle Gervais ("Gervais") and Diane Honeywell ("Honeywell"), and they were both supportive.

On December 7, 2009, Govori consulted physicians at Columbia University's Center for Women's Reproductive Care to initiate IVF. Govori first discussed her IVF treatments with Gervais and Honeywell in February of 2010. Govori continued to visit the Center and undergo testing and evaluation from December 7 until she was fired on March 15, 2010. On March 11, Govori began the ovulation induction phase of her IVF treatment, and on March 12, Govori alerted her supervisors and other staff members at Nelson Blue that she had begun the induction phase of IVF.

Also on March 12, Govori observed Gervais drinking heavily out of grief. Govori warned Gervais not to drink much so early in the day; Gervais then became upset and yelled at Govori.

The following day, March 13, Gervais sent a text message to Govori advising her that she should not come to work the next day. On March 15, Govori called Gervais and was told that she was fired from her job at Nelson Blue.

On June 3, 2010, Govori filed a charge of discrimination against Goat Fifty with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC"). The EEOC issued a right to sue letter on November 5, 2010, based on its finding that the evidence failed to indicate that a violation of Title VII had occurred.

Govori filed her complaint on December 1 and Goat Fifty moved to dismiss the Complaint on December 21. The motion was fully submitted on January 27, 2011.

DISCUSSION

Goat Fifty has moved to dismiss on two principal grounds. First, Goat Fifty contends that women undergoing IVF are not members of a protected class under the PDA because infertility is a gender-neutral condition. Second, Goat Fifty argues that even if discrimination against women undergoing infertility treatments is prohibited by Title VII, Govori has failed to adequately plead facts showing that she was in fact fired because of her decision to undergo infertility treatments.

On a motion to dismiss the court must "accept all allegations in the complaint as true and draw all inferences in the non-moving party's favor." LaFaro v. New York Cardiothoracic Group, PLLC, 570 F.3d 471, 475 (2d Cir. 2009) (citation omitted). The court is "not bound to accept as true legal conclusions couched as factual allegations. Only a complaint that states a plausible claim for relief ...


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