National Origin Discrimination Claim Dismissed; Alleged Comments Were Non-Actionable “Stray Remarks”

In Desrosiers v. Summit Security Services, Inc. et al, 2022 WL 13808524 (S.D.N.Y. Oct. 21, 2022), the court, inter alia, dismissed plaintiff’s claims of national origin discrimination asserted under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the New York State Human Rights Law, and the New York City Human Rights Law.

This case is illustrative of how courts apply the “stray remarks” doctrine in employment discrimination law.

From the decision:

As a general matter, verbal comments may raise an inference of discrimination, but not where they lack a causal nexus to the termination decision.” Luka v. Bard Coll., 263 F. Supp. 3d 478, 487 (S.D.N.Y. 2017). The Second Circuit uses a four-factor test to determine whether alleged offensive remarks suggest discriminatory bias or are merely “stray remarks,” which “generally do not constitute sufficient evidence to support a case of employment discrimination.” Martin v. City Univ. of New York, No. 17-CV-6791, 2018 WL 6510805, at *9 (S.D.N.Y. Dec. 11, 2018) (quoting Danzer v. Norden Sys., Inc., 151 F.3d 50, 56 (2d Cir. 1998)). The test considers: “(1) who made the remark (i.e., a decision-maker, a supervisor, or a low-level co-worker); (2) when the remark was made in relation to the employment decision at issue; (3) the content of the remark (i.e., whether a reasonable juror could view the remark as discriminatory); and (4) the context in which the remark was made (i.e., whether it was related to the decision-making process).” Fried v. LVI Servs., Inc., 500 F. App’x 39, 41 (2d Cir. 2012) (quoting Henry v. Wyeth Pharmaceuticals, 616 F.3d 134, 149 (2d Cir. 2010)). Applying this analysis to the alleged national origin-related comments in this case, the Court concludes that Desrosiers has failed to raise a plausible inference of discriminatory intent by reference to Hackett’s comments.

The court proceeded to apply each of the four “stray remarks” factors to the facts, and concluded that plaintiff’s Title VII national origin discrimination claim failed.

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