George T. ABRAHAM, Plaintiff-Appellant, v. NEW YORK CITY DEPT. OF EDUCATION, Defendant-Appellee.

No. 09-2238-cv.United States Court of Appeals, Second Circuit.
September 22, 2010.

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[EDITOR’S NOTE: This case is unpublished as indicated by the issuing court.]

Appeal from the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York (Matsumoto, J.).

UPON DUE CONSIDERATION, IT IS HEREBY ORDERED, ADJUDGEDAND DECREED that the judgment of the district court beAFFIRMED in part and VACATED and REMANDED in part.

Steven Sledzik, Jones Garneau, LLP, Scarsdale, NY, for Appellant.

Tahirih Sadrieh, (Francis F. Caputo and Mordecai Newman, on the brief), New York City Law Department, New York City, NY, for Appellee.


George T. Abraham appeals from a judgment of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York (Matsumoto J.), granting summary judgment to his employer, New York City Department of Education. We assume the parties’ familiarity with the underlying facts, the procedural history, and the issues presented for review.

“We review an award of summary judgment de novo, and will uphold the judgment if the evidence, viewed in the light most favorable to the party against whom it is entered, demonstrates that there are no genuine issues of material fact and that the judgment is warranted as a matter of law.”Global Network Commc’ns, Inc. v. City of N.Y., 562 F.3d 145, 150 (2d Cir. 2009); see also Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(2). Following de novo review in this case, we affirm the district court’s grant of summary judgment on Abraham’s claims brought under 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq. (“Title VII”) and New York state law and reverse the district court’s grant of summary

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judgment on Abraham’s claim brought under the New York City Human Rights Law (“NYCHRL”), N.Y.C. Admin. Code § 8-101 et seq.

For substantially the reasons stated by the district court, we affirm the grant of summary judgment regarding Abraham’s discrimination claims brought under Title VII and New York state law. Assuming Abraham established a prima facie
case of discrimination, Appellee proffered legitimate, non-discriminatory reasons for declining to promote Abraham. Abraham then failed to present a genuine issue of material fact concerning whether Appellee’s explanation is merely pretext for discrimination.

Abraham’s assertion that pretext exists because he was eminently more qualified than the selected candidates is unpersuasive. To survive summary judgment on the strength of his credentials, Abraham must show that his credentials are “so superior to the credentials of the person selected for the job that no reasonable person, in the exercise of impartial judgment, could have chosen the candidate selected over the [Appellant] for the job in question.” Byrnie v. Town of Cromwell, Bd. of Educ., 243 F.3d 93, 103 (2d Cir. 2001) (quotation marks and citation omitted). Although Abraham has an engineering degree and extensive experience working for Appellee, neither an engineering background nor seniority were among the mandatory or preferred qualifications for the Regional Contract Manager position. Appellant’s belief that the Regional Contract Manager position required an advanced engineering degree is irrelevant; employers, not the court, determine what qualifications are necessary. Id.; see also Simms v. Okla. ex rel. Dep’t of Mental Health Substance Abuse Servs., 165 F.3d 1321, 1330 (10th Cir. 1999) (“Our role is to prevent unlawful hiring practices, not to act as a `super personnel department’ that second guesses employers’ business judgments.”). Likewise, Abraham’s complaints about the interview process itself do not raise a genuine issue of material fact concerning pretext.

As for Abraham’s NYCHRL claim, the district court erred in analyzing that claim using the Title VII framework. New York City Administrative Code § 8-130 provides that the provisions of NYCHRL “shall be construed liberally for the accomplishment of the uniquely broad and remedial purposes thereof, regardless of whether federal or New York State civil and human rights laws, including those laws with provisions comparably-worded to provisions of this title, have been so construed.” N.Y.C. Admin Code § 8-130. Given this “one-way ratchet” requiring “an independent liberal construction,” NYCHRL claims should be evaluated separately from their federal and state law counterparts. Loeffler v. Staten Island Univ. Hosp., 582 F.3d 268, 278 (2d Cir. 2009) (quotation marks and citation omitted).

We cannot determine whether any genuine issues of material fact remain on Abraham’s NYCHRL claim without applying the proper legal standard. Remand is appropriate so that the district court can determine, in light of the need for separate analysis, whether to retain supplemental jurisdiction over the NYCHRL claim. If the district court retains jurisdiction, it should interpret and apply the provisions of that law in the first instance.

We have considered Abraham’s remaining contentions on appeal and find them to be without merit.

For the foregoing reasons, the judgment of the district court is hereby AFFIRMED in part and VACATED AND REMANDED inpart. We remand to the district

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court to consider Abraham’s NTCHRL claims in a matter consistent with Loeffler.