Sulehria v. City of N.Y (S.D.N.Y. 2009): Harassment in the Workplace

Muslim plaintiff Iqbal Sulehria sued his employer, the New York City Department of Correction, and related officials under Title VII, §1983, and New York State and City anti-discrimination laws, alleging religious and national origin discrimination as well as retaliation for filing a claim with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and through the prison administration. Specifically, the plaintiff claimed that his co-workers and managers harassed him for being Muslim after the events of 9/11. The harassment consisted of verbal taunts, intrusive searches, withholding promotions, denying him use of the bathroom, forcing him to work in substandard conditions, and having his face imposed on the body of Osama bin Laden in photos left on the plaintiff’s desk. The Court upheld a magistrate judge’s report granting the City partial summary judgment, dismissing the retaliation and failure-to-promote claims, because the Court found that the plaintiff failed to establish a prima facie case; however, the Court denied the City’s motion for summary judgment as to the hostile work environment claim, concluding that a jury could see the events as alleged to be severe and pervasive enough to allow the claim to go forward.

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