Race Discrimination Claims Sufficiently Alleged; Allegations Include Remarks About Hair

In Snowden v. Susan Southerton, County of Sullivan and Sullivan County Adult Care Center, 22-cv-514, 2023 WL 3601654 (S.D.N.Y. May 23, 2023), the court, inter alia, held that plaintiff plausibly alleged claims of race/color discrimination.

From the decision:

Moreover, plaintiff alleges other facts that indirectly show discrimination by giving rise to a plausible inference of discrimination.

For example, plaintiff alleges she “experienced discrimination based on her race and/or color as an African American, endured derogatory remarks about her physical appearance i.e.[,] her hair” and Southerton “made several comments” about plaintiff’s hair, including that “she did not like Plaintiff’s hair in braids and that she likes ‘real’ hair better.” See Gurley v. David H. Berg & Assocs., 2022 WL 309442, at *4 (S.D.N.Y. Feb. 2, 2022) (“Two other circuits and a court in this District have acknowledged the potential discriminatory intent behind comments regarding natural Black hair”) (citing Rogers v. Am. Airlines, Inc., 527 F. Supp. 229, 232 (S.D.N.Y. 1981)). Further, during plaintiff’s “first shift on Unit Four” she allegedly was informed that Caucasian employees “did not want to work with” plaintiff and “referred to her as a ‘bitch.’ ” The Caucasian nurses purportedly continued to make comments “under their breath while looking at” plaintiff which made her “very uncomfortable” and led her to complain to the staffing coordinator and other supervisors and management about “the on-going racial discrimination and harassment she was experiencing.” Nevertheless, according to plaintiff, defendants did nothing and she “remained assigned to work on Unit Four with her harassers.”

In addition, plaintiff alleges Southerton “showed preferential treatment” to Caucasian employees, “for example, only allowing Caucasian employees to wear their nails long while at work” while Southerton “admonished African American and Hispanic employees” that wore long nails as “against company policy.” (Am. Compl. ¶ 43). Southerton also purportedly made “derogatory comments” to plaintiff “such as ‘don’t be ghetto’ and ‘we don’t do ghetto shit here.’ ” (Id. ¶ 44). These allegations satisfy plaintiff’s minimal burden to plead facts from which the Court can infer race was a motivating factor in defendants’ decisions to suspend and terminate plaintiff’s employment.

[Cleaned up.]

Based on this, the court held that plaintiff’s race discrimination claims under Title VII against the County defendant, and under the NYSHRL against the individual defendant, in her individual capacity, shall proceed.

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