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Supreme Court of New Jersey
March 31, 2021, Argued; June 16, 2021, Decided
A-23 September Term 2020, 084746
In this appeal, the Court considers whether a supervisor's use of two offensive slurs could support a hostile work environment claim. The key question is whether the alleged slurs, directed at a Hispanic employee, were severe or pervasive enough for the claim to survive summary judgment and proceed to trial. The trial court and Appellate Division found they were not and granted summary judgment for defendants. We do not agree.
Plaintiff Armando Rios, Jr. asserts that his supervisor, defendant Tina Cheng-Avery, directed ugly slurs toward him at their place of work. According to Rios, during a conversation with Cheng-Avery about his plan to buy a new house, she said "it must be hard for a ***1 to have to get FHA loans." A month later, Rios says Cheng-Avery commented that an actress auditioning for a company commercial "would work if she didn't look too Spicky." Cheng-Avery denies making both statements.
At this stage of the case, we view the evidence in a light most favorable to the plaintiff. We also consider the remarks from the perspective of a reasonable Hispanic employee [*7] in Rios's position. Under all of the circumstances, we find that a rational jury could conclude the demeaning and contemptuous slurs, allegedly uttered by a direct supervisor, were sufficiently severe or pervasive to create a hostile work environment in violation of the Law Against Discrimination (LAD), N.J.S.A. 10:5-1 to -49. We therefore reverse and remand the case for trial.
We draw the following facts from the summary judgment record.
Full case includes Shepard's, Headnotes, Legal Analytics from Lex Machina, and more.
2021 N.J. LEXIS 553 *; 2021 WL 2639801
Armando Rios, Jr., Plaintiff-Appellant, v. Meda Pharmaceutical, Inc., Tina Cheng-Avery, and Glenn Gnirrep, Defendants-Respondents, and Mylan Inc., Defendant.
Prior History: [*1] On certification to the Superior Court, Appellate Division.
severe, comments, summary judgment, harassment, hostile work environment, pervasive, hostile work environment claim, words, slurs, national origin, circumstances, offensive, epithet, uttered, racial slur, trial court
Labor & Employment Law, Discrimination, Actionable Discrimination, Civil Rights Law, Protection of Rights, Governments, Legislation, Interpretation, Harassment, Sexual Harassment, Hostile Work Environment, Burdens of Proof, Standards of Proof, Pervasive & Severe Standards, Scope & Definitions, Sexual Harassment, Racial Harassment, Employee Burdens of Proof, Harassing Conduct, Employer Liability, Harassment by Supervisors, Objective & Subjective Standards, Civil Procedure, Appeals, Standards of Review, De Novo Review, Summary Judgment Review, Standards of Review, Judgments, Summary Judgment, Entitlement as Matter of Law, Entitlement as Matter of Law, Appropriateness, Genuine Disputes, Legal Entitlement, Burdens of Proof