Title VII Hostile Work Environment Claim Dismissed; “Be Careful of Those Arabs” Comment Insufficient

In Yaghi v. Pioneer Bank, 16-cv-663, 2018 WL 4903226 (N.D.N.Y. Oct. 9, 2018), the court dismissed plaintiff’s claims of discrimination, retaliation, and hostile work environment.

As to the plaintiff’s hostile work environment claim, the court explained:

Even construing Plaintiff’s Amended Complaint and his arguments in opposition to summary judgment broadly, there are only two events that could be construed as discriminatory actions for the purposes of a hostile work environment claim. The first was when Kramer, the Branch Manager for the Latham branch, allegedly told Plaintiff that he would rather have a woman in the position that Plaintiff was interviewing for. See Dkt. No. 26 at 2; Dkt. No. 67-15 at 17. The second was when Desnoyers allegedly told Plaintiff to “be careful of those Arabs” when learning of Plaintiff’s plans to visit the Middle East. See Dkt. No. 26 at 4; Dkt. No. 67-15 at 17. The Court finds that these two events, even if accepted as true for the purposes of this motion, are not sufficient as a matter of law to support a Title VII hostile work environment claim, because they do not constitute “a steady barrage of opprobrious racial comments.” Chick v. County of Suffolk, 546 Fed. Appx. 58, 59 (2d Cir. 2013) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted); see also Salmon, 965 F. Supp. 2d at 306 (finding that the use of a racial slur by a coworker combined with multiple other incidents of offensive conduct over a seven-year period was not sufficient to support a hostile work environment claim); Nichols v. Michigan City Plant Planning Dept., 755 F.3d 594, 601 (7th Cir. 2014) (holding that, “while referring to colleagues with such disrespectful language is deplorable and has no place in the workforce, one utterance of [a racial slur] has not generally been held to be severe enough to rise to the level of establishing liability”) (citation omitted).

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