“Where Are You From?” Held Not Probative of Discrimination; Title VII Race/National Origin Discrimination Claims Dismissed

In Ihim v. St. Vincent’s Hosp. Westchester, No. 11 CIV. 8024 JCM, 2015 WL 5698038 (S.D.N.Y. Sept. 25, 2015), the court granted defendants’ motion for summary judgment on plaintiff’s claims of race and national origin discrimination.

Plaintiff – an African American man whose ancestors are from Nigeria – alleged that his suspension without pay was the product of race and national origin discrimination. He based his discrimination claims on his supervisor’s question “where are you from?”.

The law, as summarized by the court:

In determining whether a remark is probative, [courts in this circuit] have considered four factors: (1) who made the remark (i.e., a decision-maker, a supervisor, or a low-level coworker); (2) when the remark was made in relation to the employment decision at issue; (3) the content of the remark (i.e., whether a reasonable juror could view the remark as discriminatory); and (4) the context in which the remark was made (i.e., whether it was related to the decision-making process).

Applying these factors, the court held:

Considering these factors, particularly factors three and four, the Court finds that Defendant Haznedar’s question is not probative of a discriminatory animus. As noted above, there is nothing discriminatory in the content of the question. Thus, a reasonable juror could not view it as discriminatory. Moreover, the context in which the question was asked does not suggest any discriminatory animus. Plaintiff admits that Defendant Haznedar asked the question after confronting him with the accusations against him and asking where he had worked before.

As the Second Circuit has held, even stray remarks … made by a decisionmaker[ ] do not constitute sufficient evidence to make out a case of employment discrimination” without any other indicia of discrimination. In short, based on the facts Plaintiff has put forth, he cannot get [his] discrimination suit to a jury[.]

Share This: