Accent-Based Race/National Origin Discrimination Claims Survive Motion to Dismiss

FromĀ St. Jean Jeudy v. City of New York, 2016 NY Slip Op 06045 (App. Div. 1st Dept. Sept. 15, 2016):

It is undisputed that plaintiff made out the first three elements of his claim of invidious employment discrimination under the State and City [Human Rights Laws]. We find that he also made out the fourth element, that he was adversely or differently treated because of his race or national origin, by alleging that management had a standing practice of refusing to promote foreign-accented criminalists, invoked this practice against him, and ultimately suspended and then terminated him when he persisted in seeking promotion and complaining about his rejections. Defendant’s contrary contentions notwithstanding, disparate treatment on the basis of a foreign accent is evidence of discrimination based on race or national origin.

The complaint also states a cause of action for retaliation under both the State and City HRLs. We reject defendant’s contention that plaintiff was not engaged in a protected activity, since his complaint is that he was not being promoted on account of his accent; as discussed above, plaintiff’s foreign accent is inextricably linked with his national origin. Also unavailing are defendant’s arguments that plaintiff failed to show a causal relationship between his complaints and his suspension and termination. The allegations in the complaint establish that defendant’s concerted campaign of excessive scrutiny following plaintiff’s persistent applications for promotion and complaints about continual rejection was calculated to, and did, lead directly to plaintiff’s suspension and termination.

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