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"Thinly Veiled" Discriminatory Remarks Permitted to go to a Jury


On May 21, 2020, a state appellate court in Manhattan reversed a lower court’s dismissal of a race discrimination case against Montefiore Medical Center. In Bateman v. Montefiore, 2020 N.Y. App. Div. LEXIS 3077 (1st Dept. May 21, 2020), The court found the plaintiff’s evidence that the supervisor “regularly favored white employees over black employees, by giving white employees better assignments while giving black employees undesirable assignments supposedly more consistent with their ethnicity,” created questions about whether the plaintiff was actually fired “for invidious reasons.” The plaintiff had also heard the supervisor “mutter, in a critical manner, ‘black people,’ when chastising plaintiff.”

In addition to the plaintiff’s claim for unlawful termination, the court permitted the plaintiff’s claim of a hostile work environment to go to a jury. The court found “issues of fact as to whether plaintiff was disparaged and treated unfairly for months, including being repeatedly subjected to remarks, thinly-veiled and on one occasion express, which slighted black people as a group.”

Discrimination cases rarely contain a “smoking gun” confirming that an unlawful animus played a role. We are pleased to see the appellate court recognize that juries are smart enough to recognize veiled comments referencing discrimination to be what they truly are. If you feel you have been subjected to unlawful discrimination, contact the attorneys at Schwartz Perry & Heller to see if we can assist you.