In Pothen v. Stony Brook Univ., No. 13-cv-6170, 2016 WL 5716842 (E.D.N.Y. Sept. 30, 2016), the court granted in part and denied in part defendants’ motion to dismiss plaintiff’s discrimination and hostile work environment claims.
As to plaintiff’s discrimination claims (based on adverse actions short of termination), the court explained:
With respect to plaintiff’s claims that he was denied a promotion, denied overtime, and given a disproportionately heavy workload, the Court finds that plaintiff has stated a plausible inference of discrimination. Plaintiff does not specifically identify the national origin or religion of the engineer who plaintiff alleges received a promotion instead of him or of the other comparators he alleges received overtime and disproportionately lighter workloads. However, plaintiff does identify the engineer promoted by name and he claims that comparators were engineers who were accountable to the same supervisors. Plaintiff alleges that he and these engineers were similarly situated, but were subjected to disparate treatment because of plaintiff’s national origin and religion. Drawing all reasonable inferences in plaintiff’s favor, this is sufficient to state a plausible inference of discrimination.
However, the court dismissed plaintiff’s claim that he was discharged for discriminatory reasons.
The court also held that plaintiff plausibly alleged his hostile work environment claim:
Plaintiff refers to a number of altercations in which supervisors yelled at him, “hammered on the table also along with yelling,” and called him stupid. (SAC at 5-8.) Plaintiff also states that superiors, managers, colleagues, and assistants made life miserable for him, ridiculed him, overloaded him with work, and caused him psychological trauma. (Id. at 8.) If proven, this conduct could plausibly be sufficiently pervasive or severe to constitute a hostile work environment.Moreover, although these alleged instances are not specifically linked to plaintiff’s status in a protected class (such as with specific alleged comments), it is well-settled that “[f]acially neutral incidents may be included, of course, among the ‘totality of the circumstances’ that courts consider in any hostile work environment claim.” Alfano v. Costello, 294 F.3d 365, 378 (2d Cir.2002). In viewing the totality of the circumstances, plaintiff has alleged that he and another co-worker of Indian descent were treated differently than similarly situated co-workers in terms of work assignments, overtime, and promotions. If those allegations are proven, it is certainly plausible that the other alleged harassment could also be related to plaintiff’s status in a protected class, even if such status was not referenced specifically by anyone during the incident. In short, the Court concludes that, if the alleged hostile work environment is proven, it is plausible, under the totality of the circumstances, that the alleged conduct was motivated by the defendant’s membership in a protected class (such as his national origin) or based upon his protected activity. Accordingly, defendant’s motion to dismiss the hostile work environment claim is denied.