2d Circuit, Citing Plaintiff’s “Unacceptable Behavior”, Affirms Dismissal of Doctor’s Discrimination Claims

In a terse Summary Order captioned Leena Varughese, M.D. v. Mount Sinai Medical Center et al, No. 15-1328, 2017 WL 2889483 (2d Cir. July 7, 2017), the Second Circuit affirmed the lower court’s judgment dismissing plaintiff’s discrimination, hostile work environment, and retaliation claims.

From the Order:

Review of the record and relevant case law here reveals that the District Court properly granted summary judgment to defendants. We affirm for substantially the reasons stated by the District Court in its thorough March 2015 decision. The record supports the District Court’s conclusion that no reasonable jury could find that Varughese, a woman of Indian descent, was denied a promotion, disciplined, and ultimately terminated for discriminatory reasons, as opposed to for her unacceptable behavior in a series of escalating incidents. See Holt v. KMI-Cont’l, Inc., 95 F.3d 123, 130 (2d Cir. 1996) (holding that employee’s “disruptive” behavior and refusal to “take direction from her supervisors” were “legitimate reasons for firing [her]”). As to her hostile work environment claim, we draw all inferences in Varughese’s favor and consider as evidence of discrimination her supervisor’s repeated remark that “you don’t know the crazy things you find in India.” [] Varughese testified, however, that the supervisor made the comment rarely: over three years, only “at least like four” times. [] Even accepting that these comments may have evidenced discrimination, as a matter of law they were insufficiently severe and pervasive to constitute a hostile work environment.

While likely not affecting the outcome, it is unfortunate that the Court – in what is likely a typographical error – used the term “severe and pervasive”, when it has been clearly and repeatedly held that the proper standard is “severe or pervasive.” See, e.g., Kirkland v. Speedway LLC, No. 515CV1184FJSDEP, 2017 WL 2198963, at *8 (N.D.N.Y. May 18, 2017) (“[T]he complained-of conduct need not “be both severe and pervasive to be actionable under a hostile work environment theory[.]”) (citing Terry v. Ashcroft, 336 F.3d 128, 148 (2d Cir. 2003)).

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