Zayas v. The Caring Community of Connecticut
When ruling whether discriminatory remarks qualify as "stray," courts consider whether: 1.) a supervisor issued the remark; 2.) the temporal proximity of the remark to an adverse employment decision; 3.) the discriminatory content; and 4.) whether it was related to the decision making process. Allegedly, a co-worker complained that the plaintiff, Frank Zayas, prominently displayed his gun. Management at the defendant, the Caring Community of Connecticut, investigated Zayas and discovered that he allegedly brought a gun to work, intimidated co-workers and inappropriately used funds. Apparently, the defendant employer alleged that when Zayas purchased Chinese meals, Zayas divided four of the meals among six clients, and took the rest home. The defendant discharged Zayas, who is from Puerto Rico. He sued, alleging discrimination, in part because co-workers allegedly ridiculed Puerto Ricans. "Racist comments may constitute evidence of an intent to discriminate, but only if a sufficient nexus exists between the comments and the adverse employment action," pursuant to Howe v. Town of Hempstead, a 2006 decision of the Eastern District of New York. There was no evidence of any nexus between the low-level co-worker's comments and senior management's decision to discharge. The court found that although Zayas belonged to a protected class and was qualified, his discharge did not lead to an inference of discrimination, absent evidence that the defendant's conduct was motivated in part by racial animus. The defendant employer offered a legitimate, business rationale to discharge, because Zayas allegedly intimidated co-workers with his gun and misused funds. Zayas failed to establish the defendant's nondiscriminatory, business rationale constituted a pretext for unlawful discrimination, in violation of Title VII. Zayas also failed to prove he was subjected to a workplace permeated with discriminatory ridicule, intimidation and insult, on the basis of race. Allegations, that co-workers falsely accused Zayas of bringing a gun to work, stealing food and selling drugs did not result from racial animus and were not continuous and concerted enough to change conditions of work. The alleged conduct was insufficiently severe or pervasive to qualify as a hostile-work environment. The court granted the defendant employer's motion for summary judgment.