“Costa Concordia Captain” Reference Insufficient to Support National Origin (Italian) Discrimination Claim

In Aiola v. Malverne Union Free Sch. Dist., No. 15-CV-064 ADS GRB, 2015 WL 4276187 (E.D.N.Y. July 13, 2015), the court (among other rulings) dismissed plaintiff’s national origin (Italian) discrimination and hostile work environment claims on the pleadings.

The court explained:

[Plaintiff’s] Amended Complaint contains only one allegation relating to the Plaintiff’s national origin, namely, during a telephone conversation, [defendant] told the Plaintiff that “he reminded him of the ‘Italian cruise ship Captain,’ referring to the Costa Concordia cruise ship that capsized.”

Despite alleging that this remark offended him, the Plaintiff fails to allege any related details, such as when it was made with regard to an alleged adverse employment action; the context in which it was made; or whether District decision-makers … were aware of it. … Thus, in the absence of any allegations plausibly connecting [defendant]’s stray remark to the alleged adverse employment actions, the Amended Complaint fails to state a claim for unlawful discrimination on the basis of national origin and that portion of the Second Cause of Action is dismissed.

The court also dismissed plaintiff’s national origin-based hostile work environment claim, reasoning that the “reference to the Captain of the Costa Condordia is not of sufficient magnitude to meet the applicable standard for severe intimidation, ridicule and insult required to plead a legally sufficient hostile work environment claim.”

The silver lining (for prospective plaintiffs) of this court’s decision to dismiss this plaintiff’s claims is the instructive guidance for pleading these types of claims.