Court Reiterates That Mere “Perception” of Discrimination is Insufficient to Survive Summary Judgment

In Idlisan v. Mount Sinai Medical Center (decided January 9, 2015), the Southern District of New York dismissed plaintiff’s claim that he was not hired because of his race, national origin, disability, and conviction history.

Title VII

In dismissing plaintiff’s Title VII claims, the court – citing Second Circuit precedent for the principle that “feelings and perceptions of being discriminated against [are] not evidence of discrimination” – reasoned:

Despite being afforded an opportunity to do so, Plaintiff fails to produce any evidence of discrimination beyond a mere “belief” and “perception” that “every time [he] appl[ies] for a job to an employer and [he doesn’t] get hired it must be because of a discriminatory reason[.]” Saying it is so does not establish discrimination. … Moreover, Plaintiff cannot prove that Defendant’s hiring personnel were even aware of Plaintiff’s race or that his race was ever taken into account during the hiring process.

The court declined to follow the Magistrate Judge’s Report and Recommendation that plaintiff established pretext and that defendant’s motion be denied.

Citing the principle that “[e]mployers have unfettered discretion to choose among qualified candidates’ and to decide which types of credentials are of the most importance for a particular job”, it noted that plaintiff failed to prove that no reasonable person would have selected either of the candidates defendant hired, which defendant deemed qualified and in possession of relevant experience.

Disability Discrimination

Judge Crotty dismissed plaintiff’s claims under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

Initially, he determined that plaintiff failed to prove that he was “disabled”, in that he submitted no evidence that the had a “physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities.”

Plaintiff also failed to prove the fourth McDonnell-Douglas factor, namely, that defendant refused to hire him because of his disability. He relied on his “mere ‘perception’ that ‘once you have a [severe] medical condition … an employer will not hire you”, and provided “no evidence that Defendant was aware of, and refused to hire him because of, his disability.”

The court thus disagreed with the Report & Recommendation, which stated that “[a]lthough [Defendant] maintains that [Plaintiff] cannot show that its recruiters were aware of his disability, [Defendant] has failed to indicate whether the recruiters read the relevant portion of [Plaintiff’s] application.” This, according to the court, “mistakenly puts the burden on Defendant, who need not make any showing at this stage of the McDonnell Douglas analysis.”