In Alvarado v. Jeffrey, Inc., No. 14 CIV. 500 (NRB), 2016 WL 922216 (S.D.N.Y. Mar. 4, 2016), the court dismissed claims by plaintiff – a gay Hispanic man and salesman at high-end fashion store Just Jeffrey – for race and sexual orientation discrimination, retaliation, and constructive discharge.
In dismissing plaintiff’s hostile work environment claims, Judge Buchwald explained that “three comments with racial or sexual-orientation overtones, made over the course of approximately a year” – specifically, a co-worker’s “statement that Alvarado would cook arroz con pollo; [a co-worker]’s statement that Alvarado was ‘a little bitch’; and [another co-worker]’s statement to another co-worker that he needed to “choose sides between the real girls or the queens” – did not give rise to an actionable hostile work environment. “[T]he three comments, taken as a whole, do not rise to the level of an objective alteration of the terms and conditions of Alvarado’s employment”, and were merely “petty slights and trivial inconveniences.”
The court noted that while “it appears that [a co-worker who asked plaintiff if he would make arroz con pollo and called plaintiff a ‘miserable motherfucker’] was a trying co-worker … her strong personality, which manifested itself in many contexts apart from her interactions with Alvarado, does not rise to the level of a hostile work environment.”
Furthermore, the employer took “immediate and appropriate corrective action”, as contemplated by the NYC Human Rights Law, against the co-worker who called plaintiff a “little bitch”.
As to plaintiff’s retaliation claim, the court held that the employer’s proffered reasons for issuing a written reprimand to plaintiff were not pretextual.