Epstein Becker Green successfully represented one of its clients, a messenger service (“Defendant”), in an appeal of a trial court’s judgment that dismissed a lawsuit by a former employee (“Plaintiff”).
When the Plaintiff was hired by the Defendant as a bicycle messenger, he was given, in accordance with the Defendant’s dress code, a company uniform that included a messenger bag containing the Defendant’s logo. However, the Plaintiff decided to carry a personal bag with religious writing on the outside. The Defendant repeatedly informed the Plaintiff that he could not use his personal bag while working and had to carry the Defendant’s messenger bag instead. The Plaintiff continued to carry his personal bag while working, so the Defendant fired him for violating its dress code. The Plaintiff then filed suit against the Defendant, claiming that he was a victim of religious discrimination. After the New York Supreme Court, Bronx County, dismissed the Plaintiff’s lawsuit, he appealed.
On April 16, 2015, the New York Supreme Court, Appellate Division, First Department, affirmed the trial court’s decision to dismiss the suit. The Appellate Division pointed out that the Plaintiff never explained to the Defendant why he needed to carry his personal bag, despite the Defendant’s dress code. “Plaintiff’s failure to inform defendant of his reason for carrying his personal bag is fatal to his claim,” stated the Appellate Division. Also, the Plaintiff’s religious discrimination claim failed because he could not prove that the Defendant’s policy of carrying only one messenger bag as part of a uniform applied solely to him, and not all employees. The Appellate Division added that the Defendant had “a legitimate, nonpretextual reason for discharging [P]laintiff from employment.”