Citing “Stray Remarks” Doctrine, Court Dismisses Gender Discrimination Claims

In Yeger v. Inst. of Culinary Educ., Inc., No. 14CV8202-LTS, 2017 WL 377936 (S.D.N.Y. Jan. 25, 2017), the court dismissed plaintiff’s gender discrimination claims.[1]I wrote about the court’s discussion/analysis of the plaintiff’s FMLA retaliation claim here.

This decision illustrates that even evidence of arguably disrespectful conduct/language directed at women – including, as here, the use of the word “bitch” – is not alone enough to overcome summary judgment.

Judge Swain wrote:

Aside from her disputes concerning Defendant’s evaluation of her job performance and comments regarding aggressiveness, Plaintiff’s evidence consists of her own claims of disrespectful behavior by Petersen, and complaints from two former female employees about Petersen being disrespectful and unaccommodating towards women, but not men. Plaintiff specifically points to an incident in which Petersen raised his hand to silence her, spoke to her in a condescending manner, and made her feel second-guessed. (See, e.g., Halter Decl. Ex. 84.) Plaintiff also points to a February 2013 incident in which Tunstall screamed “bitch” at a female employee. (Halter Decl. Exs. 66, 73.) As a general matter, anti-discrimination laws are not a way to enforce a civility code. See Minkinberg v. Bemis Co., Inc., 555 Fed.Appx. 34, 36 (2d Cir. 2014) (sparse comments related to one’s protected status are inadequate to suggest employer’s reasons for termination are pretextual); cf. Venezia v. Luxoticca Retail N. Am. Inc., No. 13 CV 4467, 2015 WL 5692146, at *12 (S.D.N.Y. Sept. 28, 2015) (complaints regarding rude or condescending remarks by a supervisor does not rise to the level of protected activity). Plaintiff’s general complaints about Petersen’s demeanor towards women are not tied to any specific adverse action, nor does she claim that the offensive behavior rose to the level of a hostile work environment. Moreover, the “bitch” comment directed by Tunstall at another female employee falls squarely within the realm of one-off stray remark that does not give rise to an inference of discrimination. See Gioia, 501 Fed.Appx. at 55 (“[S]tray remarks, even if made by a decisionmaker, do not constitute sufficient evidence to make out a case of employment discrimination.” (citation omitted)). Plaintiff’s allegations regarding Petersen and Tunstall suggest, at most, an uncivil atmosphere.

The court concluded that “[t]here is no genuine dispute based on the record that it was Defendant’s reasonable belief that Plaintiff was underperforming her responsibilities that led to the adverse employment actions against her, and not any discrimination based on gender.”

1 I wrote about the court’s discussion/analysis of the plaintiff’s FMLA retaliation claim here.
Share This: