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Boss’s stray comment isn’t enough to prove national origin discrimination

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in Discrimination and Harassment,Human Resources

Sometimes, supervisors get frustrated with difficult employees. That’s when they may say something in the heat of an argument that they later regret.

Fortunately, if it’s an isolated occurrence, it won’t sink an otherwise good defense to a discrimination case.

Recent case: Jean is of Haitian origin. His native language is French, and he speaks English with a strong accent.

He was hired as a security guard at the American Airlines terminal at JFK International Airport.

During his first six months on the job, he averaged a little more than one disciplinary action per month. He was charged with exceeding his allotted break time, refusing to return to his assigned post after a break, insulting a colleague and accusing the colleague of spying on him. He racked up another incident of refusing to return to his post after a break.

In addition, Jean was also accused of speaking to his supervisor in a loud voice and using foul language.

During one such incident, a supervisor apparently got frustrated and blurted out that she did not want to speak to Jean with his “f*****g French language.”

A month or so later, Jean was fired for yet another incident in which he yelled at supervisors.

Jean sued, alleging that he had been fired because of his national origin. He cited comment about the French language as proof.

The court tossed out his lawsuit, reasoning that a single stray comment didn’t justify suing, nor did it counter Jean’s long list of rules infractions. (Pierre v. Air Security, No. 14-CV-5915, ED NY, 2016)

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