Alleged Ageist Remarks Insufficient to Support Discrimination Claim

Kosarin-Ritter v. Mrs. John L. Strong, LLC, decided by the First Department on May 22, 2014, illustrates the often difficult burden encountered by a discrimination plaintiff. In affirming the trial court’s grant of summary judgment for defendants, the court stated:

Defendants established that there is no evidentiary route that could allow a jury to believe that discrimination played a role in the [termination of plaintiff’s employment]. Their evidence showed that they terminated plaintiff because of her poor work performance and hostile behavior. In opposition to defendants’ motion, plaintiff failed to submit evidence tending to show that age discrimination was the real reason, or one of the reasons, for her termination. Plaintiff complains about a comment about her hair, a provision about hair style in the company dress code, a comment about the company’s “going young,” and a video about senior citizens that she was sent by defendant’s COO. However, she identifies no evidence from which it could be inferred that any of these remarks and incidents were discriminatory. The comment about her hair was made during a conversation about women’s hair styles. She submitted no evidence that the dress code with respect to hair style was not applied equally to all employees. In view of defendant’s uncontroverted evidence supporting the nondiscriminatory reasons it proffered for terminating plaintiff, the evidence that defendant subsequently hired younger employees is not sufficient to establish age discrimination. Moreover, as plaintiff concedes, defendant also hired older employees after she was terminated. Plaintiff’s questioning of defendants’ business judgment is also insufficient to give rise to an inference of discrimination.

The court also held that these comments and incidents were insufficient to support plaintiff’s hostile work environment claim, finding them “merely isolated remarks and incidents that a reasonable trier of fact would find nothing more than ‘petty slights and trivial inconveniences.'”

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