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New York Court Discusses Elements of a Title VII Discrimination Claim

February 19, 2020

It is an unfortunate fact that many people are subject to discriminatory comments in the workplace due to their race or national origin. While discrimination based on a protected class, such as race or national origin, is unlawful, discriminatory comments in and of themselves may not be actionable, if they are not made by a person with authority to impact the victim’s employment. This was discussed in a recent case ruled on by the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York, in which the plaintiff alleged he was subject to employment discrimination based on his race. If you are subjected to discriminatory comments or actions in the workplace, it is sensible to meet with a skillful New York race discrimination attorney to discuss whether you may be able to pursue claims against your employer.

Factual Background

It is reported that the plaintiff, who was from Puerto Rico, worked as a newspaper feeder for the defendant company. His co-workers routinely made derogatory comments regarding his race. Following a dispute with a co-worker, he was terminated. He filed a lawsuit against the defendant, alleging numerous claims, including a claim of race and national origin discrimination in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII). The defendant filed a motion to dismiss, alleging in part that the plaintiff had not set forth sufficient facts to sustain his Title VII claim.

Race Discrimination Under Title VII

Title VII provides that employers are prohibited from discriminating against any person with respect to the terms, conditions, compensation, or privileges of employment because of the person’s race, national origin, and other protected classes. In order to plead a prima facie case of discrimination, a plaintiff must show that he or she was a member of a protected class and that he or she was qualified for the job in question. The plaintiff must also show that he or she suffered an adverse employment action and that there is at least minimal evidence that would allow for the inference that the employer was motivated by discriminatory intent in taking the adverse employment action against the plaintiff.

In the subject case, the defendant did not dispute that the plaintiff was a member of a protected class or that he was qualified for the job. Rather, the defendant argued that the plaintiff could not establish that he was terminated due to a discriminatory animus, as none of the plaintiff’s supervisors made any discriminatory comments or engaged in discriminatory behavior. The court agreed, finding that while verbal comments may be evidence of discriminatory intent if a plaintiff can show a nexus between the comments and the adverse action, comments from co-workers who are non-decision makers are not considered sufficient evidence to support a discrimination claim. As such, the court dismissed the plaintiff’s Title VII claim.

Meet With an Experienced Employment Attorney

If you believe your employer discriminated against you based on your race or national origin, it is in your best interest to meet with an experienced New York employment discrimination attorney to discuss your potential damages. The diligent employment attorneys of Gerstman Schwartz LLP will gather the evidence needed to help you seek the best result available under the facts of your case. You can reach us through our online form or by calling us at our Manhattan office at (212) 227-7070 or at our Garden City office at (516) 880-8170 to set up a complimentary and confidential meeting.

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