Race (Hispanic)-Based Hostile Work Environment Claims Sufficiently Alleged

In Chica v. Shallu Construction Corp., 21-cv-869, 2022 WL 970744 (E.D.N.Y. March 31, 2022), the court, inter alia, held that plaintiffs – who are Hispanic and of Latin American descent – sufficiently alleged race-based hostile work environment claims against defendants.

As to individual defendant Amninder Singh, the court explained:

Plaintiffs have pleaded a “steady barrage of opprobrious racial comments,” Williams v. Cnty. of Westchester, 171 F.3d 98, 100–01 (2d Cir. 1999) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted), either directly aimed at them by Amninder or said to other Hispanic workers in their presence. Plaintiffs have accordingly each pleaded a hostile work environment sufficient to defeat defendants’ motion to dismiss.

Plaintiff Difo pleads that he heard Amninder say to a group of Hispanic workers “stupid Spanish,” “lazy Spanish,” and “fucking Spanish” each at least four times a week over a two-and-a-half-month period. SAC ¶¶ 111–13. Mr. Difo also pleads that Amninder once said to him and others, “you fucking Spanish people can’t move fast enough.” Id. ¶ 116. Mr. Difo further pleads that he frequently heard Amninder disparagingly compare the Hispanic employees to the South Asian employees; for example, Amninder told Mr. Difo that “all you Spanish workers want is money, money, money,” and that Mr. Difo should be like the South Asian workers, who did not object to being paid once a month. Id. ¶¶ 117–18. Mr. Difo pleads that because of these statements he “would often try to avoid” Amninder “so that he could continue to work without ridicule.” Id. ¶ 115.

Plaintiff Aguayza Dutan pleads that, in the approximately two-and-a-half years he worked for defendants, he heard Amninder say “stupid Spanish” one to four times a month, “lazy Spanish” two to four times a month, and “fucking Spanish” at least one time. Id. ¶¶ 122–26.

Plaintiff Cantos pleads that during his employment with defendants from approximately January 2017 through April 2018, then August 2018 through approximately March 8, 2021, he heard Amninder say “fucking Spanish” on approximately half the days he worked for defendants, and “lazy Spanish” at least twice a day. Id. ¶¶ 139, 142–43. Mr. Cantos further pleads that he once heard Amninder call him a “stupid Spanish” because he was not working hard enough, and that over the course of his employment he heard Amninder say “stupid Spanish” about five times. Id. ¶¶ 140–41.

Plaintiff Guaraca pleads that, for the approximately five to six months he worked on a job with Amninder, he heard Amninder say “stupid Spanish” about six to seven times a month and “fucking Spanish” about twice a month. Id. ¶¶ 136, 138. Mr. Guaraca also pleads that between approximately 2016 or 2017 and February 2021, Amninder called him “lazy Spanish” approximately four times a month. Id. ¶ 137.

Plaintiff Chica pleads that in the first six weeks of 2019, Amninder berated him as a “lazy Spanish” about two to three times a week and as a “stupid Spanish” one to three times a week. Id. ¶¶ 103, 104–05.

Plaintiff Cardenas pleads that in February 2019, he heard Amninder say “fucking Spanish” to a group of Hispanic workers on at least one occasion. Id. ¶ 108.

Plaintiff Perez Patino pleads that when he once told Amninder that he would be late to work, Amninder replied that Mr. Perez Patino was a “stupid Spanish” and fired him later that day. Id. ¶ 121.

Plaintiff Estate of Edison Panora pleads that Amninder called Mr. Panora “fucking Spanish,” “lazy Spanish,” “stupid Spanish,” a “Mexican,” and a “fucking Mexican” on a regular basis.14 Id. ¶¶ 129–32. The Estate plaintiffs also plead that Mr. Panora complained to his wife that he was “tired of going to work every day” because defendants were so “racist,” id. ¶ 133, and that, because of his treatment by defendants, Mr. Panora feared that every employer would treat him in a racially discriminatory manner, see id. ¶ 134.

All plaintiffs plead that Amninder frequently insulted them in Hindi. According to plaintiffs, Amninder frequently referred to them as “kameenas” and “madlukas,” words which plaintiffs learned from their Hindi-speaking coworkers roughly translated to “sons of bitches.” Id. ¶¶ 148–49, 151–52. Plaintiffs further plead that Amninder often said “chal chal kutta” to them, which their coworkers roughly translated as “hurry hurry dog.” Id. ¶¶ 144, 153–54.

Finally, plaintiffs plead that Amninder frequently called them “gandu.” Id. ¶¶ 127, 146. While plaintiffs do not plead that they learned about the definition of the term at the time, they do plead that when Amninder used terms they did not know, they still understood the term “to be derogatory based on his angry demeanor and condescending tone” when using the epithets.

It is true that these Hindi insults did not explicitly address plaintiffs’ race or ethnicity. However, “incidents comprising a hostile work environment claim need not refer to any trait or condition on the basis of which the discrimination has occurred, so long as the incidents can reasonably be interpreted as having taken place on the basis of that trait or condition.” Svenningsen v. Coll. of Staten Island, No. 01-CV-7550 (SJ), 2003 WL 21143076, at *2 (E.D.N.Y. Mar. 28, 2003). The totality of the circumstances pleaded in the complaint supports the inference that Amninder used these Hindi insults because of plaintiffs’ race. Such circumstances include plaintiffs’ allegations that Amninder did not use these epithets against Shallu, Shalbro, and Elite employees of South Asian descent and that Amninder’s use of these Hindi insults caused employees of South Asian descent to laugh at plaintiffs. SAC ¶¶ 101, 157. I therefore find that plaintiffs have pleaded sufficient facts to support the inference that Amninder used these derogatory terms to mark plaintiffs as inferior and did so on the basis of race.

Viewing the totality of the circumstances pleaded, I find that each plaintiff has stated a hostile work environment claim against Amninder sufficient to survive a motion to dismiss. Plaintiffs have pleaded that Amninder’s use of epithets against them and against other Hispanic employees in their presence created a subjectively hostile work environment. See id. ¶¶ 159–61. Furthermore, combining plaintiffs’ individual pleadings about Amninder’s English insults with the pleadings on behalf of all plaintiffs regarding Amninder’s Hindi insults, plaintiffs have also sufficiently pleaded that they each experienced a work environment that was objectively hostile due to the severity and pervasiveness of Amninder’s “intimidation, ridicule, and insult,” Alfano, 294 F.3d at 373. As described above, named plaintiffs have pleaded that Amninder frequently used explicitly and implicitly racist epithets against them and other Hispanic workers, in ways that would humiliate a reasonable person and would unreasonably interfere with their work performance.

[Cleaned up.]

The court proceeded to determine that plaintiffs likewise sufficiently alleged hostile work environment claims against defendants evaluate plaintiffs’ claims against individual Devinder Singh and Simranjeet Singh.

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