Court Dismisses National Origin Discrimination, Hostile Work Environment Claims; No Basis to Infer Anti-Vietnamese Animus

In Lai v. Deiorio Foods, Inc., 15-CV-0195, 2018 WL 987258 (N.D.N.Y. Feb. 20, 2018), the court granted defendant’s motion for summary judgment on plaintiff’s claims of national origin discrimination and national origin-based hostile work environment.

As to plaintiff’s discrimination claim, the court explained:

Plaintiff alleges that Kucevic harbored bias against her. Exs. at 11–12. However, although the record places Kucevic at the scene of several of Plaintiff’s acts of misconduct, it does not appear that Kucevic played a role in any of Plaintiff’s suspensions or in her termination. Moreover, Plaintiff presents insufficient evidence to support an inference that Kucevic harbored anti-Vietnamese bias. Plaintiff states, in vague terms and without providing examples, that Kucevic harshly scrutinized her performance, displayed “[a]nger” and “[a]ggressi[on]” when speaking with Plaintiff, Exs. at 12–14, and would “talk loud in front of people and embarrass” her, Lai Dep. at 26. However, even if these observations indicate that Kucevic was rude to Plaintiff, they do not create an inference that Kucevic harbored animus toward her on account of her Vietnamese background. …

Plaintiff also states in her deposition that Kucevic favored her Bosnian co-workers. Lai Dep. at 101–02. However, Plaintiff does not provide any details that would support her assertion that Kucevic favored Bosnian co-workers or that Kucevic discriminated against “[p]eople that are not from Bosnia.” Id. at 102. This broad accusation is too vague and conclusory to support an inference of discriminatory animus. See Kaur v. New York City Health & Hosps. Corp., No. 07-CV-6175, 2010 WL 11589961, at *2 (S.D.N.Y. May 10, 2010) (“[I]n the discrimination context, a plaintiff must provide more than conclusory allegations of discrimination to defeat a motion for summary judgment.” (quoting Schwapp v. Town of Avon, 118 F.3d 106, 110 (2d Cir. 1997))). Similarly, Plaintiff’s assertion that Kucevic and her Bosnian co-workers “formed a [c]lique,” and that this clique “ma[d]e false accusations” against Plaintiff and her co-workers, Exs. at 11, is completely devoid of factual detail and is insufficient to create an inference that Kucevic discriminated against Plaintiff on account of her national origin.

In sum, Plaintiff’s numerous allegations regarding Kucevic’s discriminatory animus are unsupported and fail to raise an inference that Kucevic was biased against Plaintiff on the basis of her national origin. Therefore, even if Kucevic had played a part in Plaintiff’s suspensions or termination, this would not support her discrimination claim. Because Plaintiff fails to establish that any of the adverse employment actions Defendant carried out were motivated by discriminatory animus, she has not established a prima facie case of discrimination, and the Court grants Defendant’s Motion for summary judgment with respect to Plaintiff’s discrimination claim.

The court also dismissed plaintiff’s hostile work environment claim “for the same reason that her discrimination claim failed,” noting that “[t]o the extent that Plaintiff felt harassed or intimidated at work, she provides no evidence to suggest that any of this harassment occurred because of her national origin.” (Emphasis in original.)

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