Employment Discrimination Claims Continue; Court Denies Reconsideration of Summary Judgment Denial

In George v. Professional Disposables Int’l, Inc., 2017 WL 4574806 (S.D.N.Y., 2017), an employment discrimination case, the court denied defendant’s motion for reconsideration of the court’s denial of defendant’s motion for summary judgment.

Plaintiff alleged that he was subjected to discrimination and a hostile work environment based on his race, color, and national origin in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the New York State Human Rights Law.

In its decision denying summary judgment to defendant, the court held (with respect to plaintiff’s discrimination claim) “that a reasonable juror could find both that Plaintiff had established a prima facie case of discrimination and that Defendant’s legitimate, non-discriminatory reasons for his termination were pretext for discrimination” and (with respect to plaintiff’s hostile work environment claim) “that a reasonable juror could, on the basis of Plaintiff’s testimony that his direct supervisor made offensive remarks regarding his race and national origin at least five times per day, find that Plaintiff was subjected to a hostile work environment.”

In seeking reconsideration, defendant argued that the court incorrectly applied the law when it determined that plaintiff’s direct supervisor’s (Joseph Zocalli’s) alleged remarks regarding plaintiff’s race, color, and national origin give rise to an inference of discrimination.

The court cited the rule that “in determining whether a statement regarding an employee’s protected characteristics is probative of discrimination, courts often consider whether the speaker played a ‘meaningful role’ in the adverse employment action.” Applying the law, the court held that “the record contains sufficient evidence for a reasonable juror to conclude that Zocalli did, in fact, play a meaningful role in Defendant’s decision to terminate Plaintiff’s employment.” It noted, for example, evidence that this person was plaintiff’s direct supervisor, had a significant role in the investigation that ended in plaintiff’s termination, and initiated that investigation.

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