Anti-Caucasian/Greek Discrimination & Hostile Work Environment Claims Dismissed

In Daphnis v. Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, 2017 WL 1021510 (N.Y.Sup.), 2017 N.Y. Slip Op. 30484(U) (Trial Order) (NY Sup. Ct. NY Cty. 153511/14 March 16, 2017), the court granted defendant’s summary judgment and dismissed plaintiff’s complaint alleging (e.g.) discrimination, hostile work environment, retaliation, defamation, and intentional infliction of emotional distress.

The court summarized plaintiff’s allegations as follows:

Plaintiff alleges that as a male of Greek descent he was one of a few Caucasians in his department and was discriminated against by defendant Bradford, his supervisor, who together with his other supervisors, constantly abused plaintiff and customarily antagonized, berated and acted extremely hostile to other Caucasian employees, while treating those of black, Hispanic or Indian race or national origin in a friendly positive manner. Plaintiff alleges that this overt discrimination and hostile work environment created by his supervisors led to the Caucasian employees leaving the unit and to his ultimate dismissal as an employee.

Judge Mendez explained the law:

A racially hostile work environment exists when the workplace is permeated with discriminatory intimidation, ridicule and insult that is sufficiently severe or pervasive to alter the conditions of the victim’s employment and create an abusive working environment. Whether an environment is hostile or abusive can be determined only by looking at all the circumstances, including the frequency of the discriminatory conduct, its severity, whether it is physically threatening or humiliating, or a mere offensive utterance and whether it unreasonably interferes with an employee’s work performance. The conduct must have altered the conditions of [Plaintiffs] employment by being subjectively perceived as abusive by the plaintiff and have created an objectively hostile or abusive environment- one that a reasonable person would find to be so. A merely offensive racial slur is reprehensible but is not actionable. A hostile work environment requires more than a few isolated incidents of racial enmity. Instead of a sporadic racial slur, there must be a steady barrage of opprobrious racial comments. Mere utterance of an epithet which engenders offensive feelings in an employee does not sufficiently affect the conditions of employment.

Applying the law, the court held that “[p]laintiff cannot establish that defendants created a hostile work environment by closely monitoring his work and providing counseling regarding performance issues” or “that his co-workers created a hostile work environment because he has not alleged that any of them ever made comments regarding his gender, race or national origin.”

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