Jealousy of Spruned Lover, Rather than Race or National Origin Discrimination, Was Reason for Termination

A recent Eastern District of New York decision, Jones v. City of New York, No. 14-CV-0826 CBA RLM, 2015 WL 502227 (E.D.N.Y. Feb. 5, 2015), illustrates the well-established principle that

an employer can fire an employee for any reason as long as the reason is non-discriminatory even if based on reasons that are unbecoming or small-minded, such as back-scratching, log-rolling, horse-trading, institutional politics, envy, nepotism, spite, or personal hostility.

Plaintiff Jones, an African American female of Caribbean/Guyanese descent, alleged that was propositioned by a male co-worker (Ambroise), a black man of Haitian descent. After their initial date, plaintiff learned that Ambroise was already dating another woman in the office, Nabibaksh, and refused to continue seeing him.

And that, according to plaintiff, is when things started to go downhill:

[S]hortly after the lunch date, Nabibaksh and two of her friends, defendants [and co-workers] Robbins and Lester …, became openly hostile towards Jones. Jones alleges that the[se co-workers] began a campaign of harassment against her, which consisted of folding their arms …, rolling their eyes …, looking [her] up and down in disgust, glaring at [her], gossiping about whether she wore a weave and questioning her job qualifications.

Plaintiff was ultimately fired. She asserted that her termination resulted from impermissible discrimination based on her darker skin color and non-Haitian origin.

The court, however, dismissed plaintiff’s claims under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), stating:

[A] plaintiff fails to clear the pleading bar if her complaint does not contain “specific facts supporting a claim of racial animus,” but does provide “other possible [race-neutral] motives” for the adverse action.

Jones’ own Complaint does just that. Far from establishing the necessary connection to a protected characteristic, it specifically pleads a non-discriminatory basis for the alleged conduct: the jealousy of a spurned lover. Jones concedes that her lunch date with Ambroise-not her darker skin color or non-Haitian origin-made her a target of Nabibaksh, Robbins and Lester. Since an apparently unfaithful boyfriend-not illegal discrimination-launched the … campaign against Jones, dismissal is appropriate. … The Court will not countenance Jones’ attempt to transform her love triangle into a federal discrimination suit.

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