Antisemitic Comments, Deemed “Facially Neutral” by Court, Fail to Make Out Religious Discrimination Claim

In a recent case, Gerzhgorin v. Selfhelp Community Services, Inc. et al, 2023 WL 2469824 (2d Cir. March 13, 2023), the U.S. Court of Appeals, inter alia, affirmed the lower court’s dismissal of plaintiff’s religion-based religious discrimination claim asserted under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the New York City Human Rights Law.

From the decision:

Gerzhgorin argues that antisemitic “slurs” made by supervisors and colleagues in the workplace gave rise to an inference of discrimination, but many of the purportedly antisemitic comments he identifies are facially neutral, such as descriptions of the defendants’ clients that Gerzhgorin concedes to be accurate. Cf. Feingold v. New York, 366 F.3d 138, 150–51 (2d Cir. 2004) (addressing antisemitic comments that “were not merely the result of religious consciousness, but rather stemmed from anti-Semitic hostility,” including comments that were “mocking” or demonstrated “overt animosity”). Gerzhgorin did not present admissible evidence that other alleged statements were made. For example, his testimony that two of his supervisors ridiculed his kashrut observance relied on inadmissible hearsay—namely, a report to him from another employee. See Porter, 722 F.3d at 97.

The court further held that comments by plaintiff’s peers do not support an inference of discrimination, since plaintiff “presented no evidence that the decisionmakers were aware of the comments.”

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