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Hostile work environment claim survives motion to dismiss

Where a woman at a logistics company alleged that her supervisor and other employees made derogatory comments “that Chinese people, like [plaintiff], would ‘eat rats, cats, and dogs’” or a question about “why Chinese people are so tiny,” she plausibly alleged a hostile work environment claim.


Alynna Edouard asserts claims under the Americans with Disabilities Act, or ADA, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and 42 U.S.C. § 1981 against John S. Connor Inc. Defendant has filed a motion to dismiss.


Plaintiff alleges that defendant failed to provide reasonable accommodation for her alleged disability by failing to allow her to work from home. Defendant argues that plaintiff “does not allege any facts that would support an assertion that her injuries rise to the level of a disability under the ADA.” The court agrees.

While plaintiff alleges that her disability stems from a July 2019 car accident that gave her “severe[] … injuries to her back, knees, neck and feet,” she provides no further factual allegations to explain the nature of her asserted disability or even which major life activities are impacted. The court therefore finds that plaintiff has failed to allege that she suffers from a disability within the meaning of the ADA and, therefore, that she has not stated a claim for failure to accommodate under the ADA.

Plaintiff next alleges that she was wrongfully terminated by defendant in violation of the ADA. This claim fails for two reasons. First, plaintiff fails to plead facts showing that she is “disabled” under the ADA. Second, she offers no allegation that she was meeting defendant’s “legitimate expectations” at the time of her termination. For the foregoing reasons, the court finds that plaintiff has not stated a plausible claim for wrongful discharge in violation of the ADA.

Title VII and § 1981 claims

Plaintiff asserts three causes of action concerning alleged discrimination on the basis of plaintiff’s national origin and/or race: (1) a Title VII national origin discrimination claim; (2) a Title VII hostile work environment claim and (3) a § 1981 racial discrimination claim.

Defendant argues that plaintiff’s Title VII discrimination claim must be dismissed because she has failed to allege that her job performance was satisfactory at the time of her termination or that she was terminated because of her national origin. The court agrees with defendant on both points.

Defendant similarly argues that plaintiff’s § 1981 claim must be dismissed because plaintiff has not pled that her race was a but-for cause of her termination, as required by Comcast Corp. v. Nat’l Ass’n of Afr. Am.-Owned Media, 140 s. Ct. 1009 (2020). The court agrees. While plaintiff has sufficiently alleged that she experienced near-daily disparaging remarks regarding her Chinese heritage from her coworkers and supervisor and that she was ultimately terminated, these factual allegations are insufficient to support the legal conclusion that plaintiff would not have been terminated but for her race.

However, although plaintiff’s factual allegations are not overly detailed, the court nonetheless concludes that, accepting all the well-pled factual allegations in the complaint as true, plaintiff has stated a hostile work environment claim under Title VII. Plaintiff alleges that the comments included “that Chinese people, like [plaintiff], would ‘eat rats, cats, and dogs’” or a question about “why Chinese people are so tiny and why [plaintiff] was ‘so skinny,’ ‘so tiny’ and ‘wore heels daily.’” The court concludes that the supervisory status of the primary harasser, coupled with the frequency, constancy and length of time that the harassment continued, “invest[ed the] harassing conduct with a particular threatening character.”

Defendant’s motion to dismiss granted in part, denied in part.

Edouard v. John S. Connor Inc., Case No. 2:22-cv-263, April 27, 2023. EDVA at Norfolk (Davis). VLW 023-3-232. 21 pp.

VLW 023-3-232