“Lazy Americans” Hostile Work Environment Claim Survives Dismissal; Court Strikes Unrelated Sexual Harassment Allegations From Plaintiff’s Complaint

In Donahue v. Asia TV USA Ltd., No. 15 CIV. 6490 (NRB), 2016 WL 5173381 (S.D.N.Y. Sept. 21, 2016), the court granted in part and denied in part plaintiff’s employment discrimination claims.

While, for example, the court dismissed plaintiff’s hostile work environment claims under Title VII, the ADEA, and NYS Human Rights Law, it held the plaintiff’s “claims under the [NYC Human Rights Law] survive because he has pleaded that Asia TV treated him ‘less well’ than other employees based on his national origin and age’ and “[t]he federal ‘severe or pervasive’ standard does not apply to NYCHRL claims.”

The court explained:

Here, Chandra told Donahue that Americans were lazy and in a separate conversation told Donahue that he should retire, suggested his replacement, and, in the same conversation, told Donahue to report to a new person, who allegedly did not possess the relevant expertise in his field to act as a supervisor. Further, Asia TV subsequently replaced Donahue with the person Chandra suggested as his replacement. Such facts render Donahue’s claim that he was treated “less well,” at least in part for discriminatory reasons, plausible.

The court also granted defendant’s motion to strike the complaint’s allegations that Chandra sexually harassed plaintiff’s co-worker. The court explained:

Asia TV’s motion to strike is granted with respect to the paragraphs in the complaint alleging that Chandra sexually harassed a co-worker of Donahue’s. Donahue’s claims regarding the sexual harassment of a co-worker are not relevant to any cause of action he has brought. While it is true, as Donahue argues, that different forms of harassment may exacerbate each other, Cruz, 202 F.3d at 572, the Second Circuit has so found where the plaintiff alleges that he or she has suffered the multiple varieties of discrimination, not where others in the same workplace have allegedly suffered discrimination wholly unrelated to plaintiff’s claims, see id. at 564–65, 568–71; see also Feingold v. New York, 366 F.3d 138, 151–52 (2d Cir. 2004); Terry, 336 F.3d at 150. It is also true that “[r]emarks targeting members of other minorities … may contribute to the overall hostility of the working environment for a minority employee,” and therefore “offensive remarks or behavior [need not] be directed at individuals who are members of the plaintiff’s own protected class” to be relevant. Cruz, 202 F.3d at 570. However, Cruz does not stand for the proposition that discrimination against any member of a protected class is relevant to another’s hostile work environment claim, regardless of the basis of the discrimination alleged. While racial discrimination against African-Americans may support a Hispanic woman’s claim of a racially hostile work environment, id. at 570, that does not mean that sexual harassment is relevant to Donahue’s claims of national origin and age discrimination. See Smith v. AVSC Int’l, Inc., 148 F.Supp.2d 302, 311 (S.D.N.Y. 2001) (discriminatory conduct directed at women and minorities unrelated to hostile work environment claim brought by older white man). Because evidence of sexual harassment of other employees is wholly unrelated to Donahue’s claims of national origin and age-based hostile work environment claims, paragraphs 37-39 shall be stricken. See id. at 317 (striking allegations regarding harassment of third parties).

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