National Origin (Iranian)-Based Hostile Work Environment Claims Sufficiently Alleged

In Shargani v. New York City Department of Environmental Protection et al, 21 Civ. 337, 2022 WL 1046764 (S.D.N.Y. April 7, 2022), the court, inter alia, granted plaintiff’s motion to amend his complaint (and denied defendants’ motion to dismiss plaintiff’s amended complaint) with respect to his claims of hostile work environment because of his national origin (Iranian) under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the New York State Human Rights Law, and the New York City Human Rights Law.

The court summarized plaintiff’s allegations, in part, as follows:

Plaintiff is Paul Shargani, a Jewish man of Iranian descent who is an employee of the New York City Department of Environmental Protection (DEP). Defendants are the City of New York and, for the non-federal claims, Plaintiff’s supervisor, Denis Delaney.2 Shargani works for the DEP as a Supervisor of Field Operations. He alleges that, over the course of the past twenty years, his supervisor Denis Delaney subjected him to discrimination and created a hostile work environment, particularly through verbal abuse. Specifically, Shargani alleges that Delaney has made comments such as “I’m going to make sure that Iranian Mother Fucker doesn’t get promoted” [sic], asked Shargani how he feels “about the Taliban,” and chanted “Iranian, Iranian, Iranian” to disparage Shargani.

In the portion of the opinion relating to plaintiff’s hostile work environment claim, and specifically with respect to plaintiff’s claim under Title VII, the court explained:

Shargani adequately alleges a hostile work environment claim under Title VII. To make such a claim, a plaintiff must allege that “the workplace is permeated with discriminatory intimidation, ridicule, and insult that is sufficiently severe or pervasive to alter the conditions of the victim’s employment and create an abusive working environment.” Littlejohn, 795 F.3d 297, 320–21 (quoting Harris v. Forklift Sys., Inc., 510 U.S. 17, 21 (1993)). Although mere “isolated incidents” of hostility may not constitute a hostile work environment Fleming v. MaxMara USA, Inc., 371 Fed.Appx. 115, 118 (2d Cir. 2010), Shargani alleges that Delaney visited his worksite once a week and engaged in intimidating behavior. That behavior included screaming at Shargani and calling attention to Shargani’s Iranian heritage when disparaging him.

Additionally, Shargani’s allegations of past discrimination, “even if they do not independently constitute adverse employment actions, provide ‘relevant background evidence’ by shedding light on Defendant’s motivation and thus bolster his claim that Defendants treated him differently because of his ethnicity.” Vega, 801 F.3d at 88 (quoting Nat’l R.R. Passenger Corp. v. Morgan, 536 U.S. 101, 112 (2002)). At this stage of the litigation, those allegations are sufficient to state a hostile work environment claim. See Alfano v. Costello, 294 F.3d 365, 373 (2d Cir. 2002).

Having determined that plaintiff sufficiently alleged his claim under Title VII, so to did his claims under the NYSHRL and NYCHRL, since claims under those statutes are analyzed “more liberally” than under Title VII.

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