Religion and National Origin Discrimination Claims Survive Motion to Dismiss Against Regents of the University of Colorado

In Werahera v. Regents of University of Colorado, No. 21-cv-02776-NYW, 2022 WL 3645979 (D.Colo. August 24, 2022), the court, inter alia, denied defendant’s motion to dismiss plaintiff’s claims of hostile work environment asserted under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

After explaining the “black letter” law and elements of this claim, the court applied it to the facts:

Defendants argue that none of the conduct alleged by Dr. Werahera shows that Defendants acted with any hostility toward Plaintiff at all, let alone because of his national origin, race, or religion. Defendants also argue that, even accepting as true Plaintiff’s allegations regarding the basis for his negative performance evaluation or that he was deprived of donor funds based on his being “an older male of Asian descent,” such allegations do not rise to the level of “extreme conduct that is severe or pervasive so as to state a claim for hostile work environment.”

Dr. Werahera disagrees, arguing that he has adequately pled “detailed facts alleging that he is being subjected to a pervasive work environment of repeated and ongoing abuse because of his religion (Buddhism) and national origin (Sri Lankan).” Specifically, Dr. Werahera contends that he “has been subjected to constant menacing behavior from his superiors, who have publicly and privately ridiculed him and threatened him with termination for a completely fabricated reason,” and “Defendants’ actions have inhibited Plaintiff’s ability to continue his groundbreaking prostate cancer research.”

[Cleaned up.]

The court concluded that, given the case’s procedural posture, it was more appropriate to consider this issue in the context of summary judgment, and thus denied the motion.

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