Alleged Arab Prejudice Cited as Basis For Denying Motion to Dismiss Title VII Race Discrimination Claim

In Shaker v. Middle East Media Research Institute, Inc., 2023 WL 5174339 (D.D.C. August 11, 2023), the court, inter alia, denied defendant’s motion to dismiss plaintiff’s race-based discrimination asserted under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and 42 U.S.C. § 1981.

Initially, defendants argued that plaintiff’s § 1981 claims cannot stand because they are based on discrimination based on plaintiff’s national origin, while that statute prohibits discrimination only on race. The court nevertheless held that plaintiff stated a race discrimination claim under this statute:

Plaintiff clearly also alleges that Stalinsky discriminated against him on the basis of his race. Specifically, he claims that Stalinsky believes that “Arabs do not work” and “do not share the same professional values.” He has identified himself as Arab, and has accused Stalinsky of making “stereotypical assumptions” about his willingness to work, consistent with those views. [Citations omitted.]

As to Title VII, the court explained:

To [state a claim under TItle VII], a plaintiff must allege that: (1) he suffered an “adverse employment action” — that is, a “significant change in employment status, such as hiring, firing, failing to promote, reassignment with significantly different responsibilities, or a decision causing significant change in benefits”; and (2) the adverse action “was the result of plaintiff’s race.” Briscoe v. Kerry, 111 F. Supp. 3d 46, 57 (D.D.C. 2015) (internal citations and quotation marks omitted). Just as with § 1981, Defendants dispute that Plaintiff has alleged any facts indicating race discrimination (as opposed to national-origin discrimination). This position founders for the reasons stated earlier. Plaintiff has clearly alleged that Stalinsky held prejudicial attitudes toward Arabs, and that his views resulted in something of a vendetta against Shaker. That amounts to a sufficient accusation of discrimination on the basis of Plaintiff’s Arab identity. And Defendants provide no reason why this would not amount to a form of race discrimination under Title VII. See Vill. of Freeport v. Barrella, 814 F.3d 594, 607 (2d Cir. 2016) (ruling that “discrimination based on ethnicity, including Hispanicity or lack thereof, constitutes racial discrimination under Title VII”).

The court did, however, grant defendant’s motion to dismiss plaintiff’s claims of national origin discrimination asserted under 42 U.S.C. § 1981, as well as claims against the individual defendant under Title VII.

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