Hostile Work Environment Claim, Based on Chinese-American Status, Dismissed

In Jian Hua Li v. Chang Lung Group Inc., 2020 WL 1694356 (E.D.N.Y. April 7, 2020), the court, inter alia, dismissed plaintiff’s hostile work environment claims asserted under the New York State and City Human Rights Laws.

As to plaintiff’s state law claim, the court explained:

Plaintiff’s hostile work environment claim under the NYSHRL fails. Plaintiff testified that Zhou called him names and cursed him, using expletives such as “Chinese Rubbish,” “Chinese Garbage,” “Chinese Junk,” “Dick Head,” or “Mother Fucker” on a daily basis. (Trial Tr. at 28:5-12; Li Decl. ¶ 5.) Although these comments are offensive, not all of them are based on race. Plaintiff does not specify how often he was disparaged using a racial, rather than generic, slur. See Fenner, 2013 WL 6244156, at *13. Plaintiff has failed to allege or testify that the comments were so “severely permeated with discriminatory intimidation, ridicule, and insult,” such that they altered his work environment for the worse. Marshall, 2015 WL 5773748, at *10 (emphasis added).
Plaintiff has also not demonstrated that a hostile environment was created because of his protected status as Chinese American. Zhou criticized Plaintiff and called him names when he was not satisfied with Plaintiff’s work, or when Plaintiff did not want to participate in Zhou’s alleged schemes. (Trial Tr. at 28:1-29:1) Plaintiff testified that Zhou used profane language with all of the employees, but with Plaintiff more severely. (Id. at 28:13-29:1.) While the work environment was undoubtedly stressful, Plaintiff has not established liability for a hostile work environment claim based on race or national origin under the NYSRHL.

The court reached the same conclusion under the (comparatively broader) city law, concluding that “[w]hile Plaintiff has established that Zhou was an ‘obnoxious boss,’ the comments he describes are no more than ‘petty slights and inconveniences.'”

Of particular note was the fact that Plaintiff testified unequivocally that the ‘reason why’ Zhou criticized him more severely than other Chinese American or Hispanic employees was Plaintiff’s unwillingness to participate in Zhou’s alleged schemes to defraud customers or suppliers, not because Plaintiff is Chinese American.”

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