Race, Religious Discrimination Claims Stated Against HASC Center; Plaintiff Alleged Mistreatment Due to Switching From “Orthodox” to “Traditional” Judaism

In Isakov v. HASC Ctr., Inc. Druker, No. 17-CV-5775 (BMC), 2018 WL 1114714 (E.D.N.Y. Feb. 27, 2018), the court held that plaintiff plausibly alleged a claim for religion-based employment discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Plaintiff asserted, inter alia, that he was treated differently/unfairly after he stopped practicing “Orthodox” Judaism, and began practicing “Traditional” Judaism.

As to plaintiff’s Title VII religious discrimination claim, the court held:

Plaintiff alleges clear religious discrimination in violation of Title VII. Plaintiff details that for nearly two years before his final raise denial and subsequent termination, Schwartz explicitly conditioned any pay increase on his appearing to be an Orthodox Jew and actually practicing Orthodox Judaism. Schwartz even acknowledged that plaintiff’s performance was exemplary. Plaintiff was told that he was going to be fired on the same day that Druker saw him working without a yarmulke, and, at the time, he was offered no performance-based reason. What’s more, when he was officially terminated two weeks later, Osipov expressly told plaintiff that Druker did not want “non-religious Jews” working for the agency.

Plaintiff, in sum, describes that defendants—a healthcare agency that seems to primarily serve the Orthodox community, and its managers who apparently practice Orthodox Judaism—imposed the requirements of their religious practice and belief upon him, and fired him when he did not comply. At the pleading stage, plaintiff does not need to claim any more than he has; he has clearly alleged facts sufficient to “nudge” his claim of religious-based discrimination “across the line from conceivable to plausible.”

The court also held that plaintiff sufficiently alleged discrimination based on his “race” under Title VII and 42 U.S.C. § 1981.

As to whether such claims are cognizable under federal law, the court explained:

[T]he Second Circuit has not ruled on whether Jewish ancestry is a class protected by Title VII, such that discrimination based on Jewish ancestry could be challenged[.] … However, the Second Circuit has held that other civil rights statutes, such as the Civil Rights Act of 1866, 42 U.S.C. § 1981, do protect the Jewish “race” from race-based discrimination. … The Court can think of no good reason to find the Jewish race to be a protected race under one statute, but not another.

The court concluded:

Plaintiff alleges that because he was Jewish, he was compelled to wear Orthodox attire and comply with the tenants of Orthodox Judaism, while non-Jewish employees did not have to. He was repeatedly told that (presumably because he was Jewish), he should look the part and practice Orthodox Judaism. When he was terminated, plaintiff was also told that HASC did not want to employ “non-religious Jews,” although his allegations support concluding that HASC was fine with hiring non-Jews. Plaintiff has, in short, described that he suffered adverse employment events because of his membership in a protected class—had he not been Jewish, he seemingly would not have been compelled to change his conduct and his faith, and would have likely enjoyed a raise and continued employment.

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