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Because Plaintiff was not a member of a protected class nor were Defendants’ actions motivated by Pl

Plaintiff was a lecturer in the music department at City University of New York (“CUNY”). Plaintiff regularly complained of bullying and harassment over the past three years at CUNY. The problem with the complaints, as the court identified, was that the president of Plaintiff’s Union was also the very same Department chair of which Plaintiff complained. After complaints about bullying and the evaluation process, Plaintiff’s position at CUNY was not renewed. He filed a complaint, pro se and the court granted the Defendants’ motion to dismiss - The alleged Discrimination against CUNY was dismissed in CUNY's favor.

Law: "A plaintiff's belief on this point is not reasonable simply because he or she complains of something that appears to be discrimination in some form," even when the complaint cites reprehensible language or behavior. Kelly, 716 F.3d at 15 (citing Wimmer v. Suffolk Cnty. Police Dep't, 176 F.3d 125, 134-35 (2d Cir. 1999)). In Wimmer, the Second Circuit affirmed that one officer's complaints about other officers' use of racial slurs and suspicionless stops of minorities did not constitute "protected activity" for Title VII purposes. 176 F.3d at 134-35. In Kelly, the plaintiff was forced to quit after complaining that her employer (who happened to be her brother) showed unfair preference for his office paramour. 716 F.3d at 13. The Circuit held there was "no indication either that Kelly herself possessed a good-faith belief that she was complaining of conduct prohibited by Title VII or that her employers could have understood her complaints in this way." Id. at 16. The Court finds that the same is true here.

Analysis: While Johnson identified and complained to his union and to the EEOC about conduct that is undesirable in the workplace, he candidly admits that there was not any nexus between the complained-of conduct and Johnson's membership in a protected class. Johnson might have believed that any bullying, regardless of whether it was motivated by impermissible discrimination, constituted a violation of Title VII, but a "'mere subjective good faith belief is insufficient; the belief must be reasonable and characterized by objective good faith.'" Kelly, 716 F.3d at 16 (quoting Sullivan-Weaver v. N.Y. Power Auth., 114 F. Supp. 2d 240, 243 (S.D.N.Y. 2000)) (alterations omitted, emphasis in original).

Holding: “Bullying and harassment have no place in the workplace, but unless they are motivated by the victim's membership in a protected class, they do not provide the basis for an action under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. §2000e-2 (‘Title VII’), and any complaint to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (‘EEOC’) based on them does not constitute "protected activity" under Title VII. Victims of non-discriminatory bullying at the workplace, like those treated unfairly for reasons other than their membership in a protected class, must look outside Title VII to secure what may be their fair due. The Court does not condone bullying, but it cannot read Title VII to protect its victims unless the bullying reflects discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin.” Johnson v. CUNY, 14-CV-587, NYLJ 1202669837609 (SDNY, Sept. 8, 2014)

The Case is Johnson v. CUNY, 14-CV-587, NYLJ 1202669837609 (SDNY, Sept. 8, 2014). Read more:

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