In response to a successful motion for summary judgment by Goldberg Segalla special counsel Jack L. Cohen, a federal judge has dismissed most of a race-discrimination suit by a security guard fired for leaving his overnight post at a New York City nonprofit association, enabling a burglary.
The February 26, 2020, ruling by U.S. District Judge for the Southern District of New York Jesse M. Furman, which dismisses all claims of race discrimination, retaliation, and negligence against the plaintiff’s former employer, is a win for Jack and his client, the nonprofit. The ruling saved the client as much as $400,000 in actual damages. It also reinforced the proposition that isolated derogatory or insensitive remarks are not enough to interpret a person’s actions as discriminatory.
With the ruling, all that remains of the suit is a claim regarding salary allegedly owed the terminated worker.
According to the lawsuit, at a February 2017 meeting with the nonprofit’s maintenance employees, all of whom were African American, the manager and founder told the group they would be doing security because they were “from the neighborhood” and could “relate to the community.”
The plaintiff cited the comments as purported evidence that he experienced racial discrimination that informed his firing.
The firing in question was the culmination of events that began on the evening of August 23, 2017. That day, the plaintiff worked a shift beginning at 10 p.m., according to the suit. At 10:50 he left his post and, while he was absent, a group of intruders broke in, damaging and stealing property.
In his lawsuit, the plaintiff alleged that he left his post when he saw several people hop over a fence onto the property so that he could tell them to leave. After surveilling them for a while, the suit alleges, the plaintiff then spent several hours cleaning part of the property. When he returned to his post at 2:38 a.m. on August 24, he saw the damage from the break-in and phoned police.
The next day he was fired.
The nonprofit association had legitimate, non-discriminatory grounds for terminating the security guard, Furman ruled.
In addition, there was no evidence to support the plaintiff’s claim that his employer retaliated against him for complaining about alleged discrimination by increasing his workload, that he was subjected to a hostile work environment, or that his firing resulted from negligent management, the judge said.
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