Cost-Reduction Measures, and Not Anti-Iranian Discrimination, Justified Termination, Second Circuit Holds

In Karimian v. Time Equities, Inc., 569 Fed.Appx. 54, 13-997-cv (2d Cir. June 17, 2014) (Summary Order), the Second Circuit affirmed a district court decision granting defendants’ motion for summary judgment as to plaintiff’s hostile work environment, retaliation, and national origin discrimination claims brought pursuant to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

“In an employment discrimination or retaliation case, summary judgment may be granted [for the defendant] if the record conclusively revealed some other, nondiscriminatory reason for the employer’s decision, or if the plaintiff created only a weak issue of fact as to whether the employer’s reason was untrue and there was abundant and uncontroverted independent evidence that no discrimination had occurred.”

Applying this standard, the court held:

Viewed in the light most favorable to Karimian, the record contains an overabundance of evidence of TEI’s legitimate, nonretaliatory, and nondiscriminatory reasons for having laid Karimian off: that is, the company’s significant cost-reduction measures—taken in plaintiff’s department and others—in the wake of the 2008 financial downturn. No reasonable juror could conclude that bias against those of Iranian national origin motivated his discharge.

In addition, citing the Supreme Court’s decision in Univ. of Tex. Sw. Med. Ctr. v. Nassarthe Second Circuit held that a reasonable juror could not find that “retaliation for complaining about [plaintiff’s co-worker] Schermer’s comments was a but-for reason for laying him off.”

Finally, the court affirmed the dismissal of plaintiff’s hostile work environment claim:

Drawing all inferences in Karimian’s favor, Schermer made several general comments about Israel bombing Iran, and one specific comment about Karimian’s “Iranian ass.” On this record, no reasonable factfinder would conclude that the workplace was “permeated with discriminatory intimidation, ridicule, and insult [citation omitted], or that the environment “alter[ed] the conditions” of Karimian’s employment.

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