Citing “Stray Remarks” Doctrine and Plaintiff’s Mistakes, Court Dismisses Discrimination, Hostile Work Environment, and Retaliation Claims

In Lowe v. Mount Sinai Health System, Inc., 16-cv-6074, 2018 WL 2089345 (S.D.N.Y. 2018), the court dismissed plaintiff’s claims of race discrimination (termination), hostile work environment, and retaliation.

Plaintiff testified at her deposition that, e.g., her supervisor (Lopiano) made racial comments, such as “why don’t you go back to Haiti” and “you can’t even speak proper English.” Defendant ultimately terminated plaintiff, citing mistakes in her work (the third of which was uncovered as the result of an internal audit).

The court found that “[t]here is no indication in the record that racial discrimination, or any particular animosity toward Plaintiff, had motivated the initiation of the audit or motivated the ultimate identification of Plaintiff as the primary cause of the mistak[e]” and that there was “sufficient evidence that the termination of Plaintiff’s employment was motivated, not by racial discrimination, but by concern for Plaintiff’s ability to adequately perform her job-related duties.”

In assessing plaintiff’s reliance on alleged racial comments made by plaintiff’s supervisor, however, the court explained:

Plaintiff argues, however, and testified in her deposition, that Lopiano made consistent and incendiary comments about Plaintiff’s race and ability to speak English and otherwise intimated his disgust for her. But, given the above, Plaintiff cannot show a causal connection between these remarks and the termination of her employment. “[S]tray remarks, without more, and with no nexus to the adverse employment action in this case, would not support” an inference of discrimination. See Rosenfeld v. Hostos Cmty. Coll., No. 10 CIV. 3081 JMF, 2013 WL 1285154, at *5 (S.D.N.Y. Mar. 29, 2013), aff’d, 554 F. App’x 72 (2d Cir. 2014). Although Lopiano’s remarks should not be considered “stray” or infrequent, crediting Plaintiff’s testimony (as I must at summary judgment), there is insufficient support in the record to show a connection between such racial animus and the termination decision. The record shows that the decision to terminate Plaintiff was motivated by legitimate business reasons, following Plaintiff’s numerous mistakes, an impartial arbitrator’s final warning, and an independent audit.


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