Jokes About Accent Etc. Insufficient to Make Out Hostile Work Environment Claim, Court Holds

In Daeisadeghi v. Equinox Great Neck, Inc., 2019 WL 6843142 (2d Cir. Dec. 16, 2019) (Summary Order), the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit affirmed the dismissal of plaintiff’s national origin-based hostile work environment claim.

From the decision:

The district court granted summary judgment in favor of Equinox after concluding that the harassment Daeisadeghi experienced was not sufficiently frequent or severe to constitute a hostile environment. While Daeisadeghi does point to evidence that he was subjected to frequent harassment in the form of jokes about his accent and national origin, the harassment, while inappropriate and offensive, does not rise to the level of creating a hostile work environment in the circumstances here. Daeisadeghi failed to present evidence that the conduct was physically threatening or humiliating, or that the conduct interfered with his work (he testified that he was a “high performance employee”), or that he suffered any psychological harm as a result. Indeed, he admitted that he suffered no emotional distress from any of the harassment he experienced while working at Equinox. While the absence of emotional harm is not dispositive, it is relevant to whether the plaintiff actually found the environment abusive.

In the end, Daeisadeghi alleges only mere offensive utterances. As we have observed, however, Title VII does not set forth a general civility code for the American workplace, and simple teasing or offhand comments will not amount to discriminatory changes in the terms and conditions of employment.

[Cleaned up.]

The court concluded that “while there is some evidence that Daeisadeghi was subject to teasing and requested a transfer, in part, due to the teasing, on this record no reasonable jury could conclude that the workplace was permeated with discriminatory intimidation, ridicule, and insult or that the environment altered the conditions of his employment.” [Cleaned up.]

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