Sexual Comments and Conduct Were Not “Petty Slights or Trivial Inconveniences”, Supporting Sexual Harassment/Hostile Work Environment Claim Under NYC Human Rights Law

In Nankivell v. Ardis Health, LLC, the court denied defendants’ motion to dismiss plaintiff’s claim for sex discrimination and harassment under the New York City Human Rights Law (NYCHRL).

The NYCHRL is broader than its federal and state counterparts (Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the New York State Human Rights Law, respectively).

“[F]or purposes of hostile workplace environment claims brought under the [NYCHRL], questions of ‘severity’ and ‘pervasiveness’ are applicable to consideration of the scope of permissible damages, but not to the question of underlying liability.”

However, the NYCHRL “is not a general civility code, such that an employer can be held liable for petty slights and trivial inconveniences.”

So where does one draw the line when evaluating liability under the NYCHRL? That is, when does conduct exceed the “petty slights and trivial inconveniences” threshold? There is no clear-cut answer.

This decision provides some guidance as to what does not, as a matter of law, constitute “petty slights or trivial inconveniences”. From the decision:

[P]laintiff alleges in the complaint that, as a woman, she is a member of a protected class; the conduct of [Jordan] Finger [defendants’ president] was unwelcome and offensive; that it was directed at her because she was a woman; and the words created a hostile environment for which defendants should be liable. Defendants do not appear to dispute this but rather argue that plaintiff’s allegations fail to meet the severe and pervasive threshold as the instances occurred on but a few occasions. However, as noted above, that is not the standard under the NYCHRL. Conducting employment luncheons and holiday parties at strip clubs, showing video clips of topless women or pictures of scantily dressed women to their employees, commenting on their physical attributes, or  advertising sexual conquests or desires to employees, on a regular basis as is alleged herein is not conduct which can be said to be “petty slights or trivial inconveniences.” (Emphasis added.)

Share This: