Unasserted Gender Discrimination & Hostile Work Environment Claims Dismissed as Not Administratively Exhausted

In Casseus v. N.Y. Coll. of Health Professions, 15-cv-1914, 2016 WL 7029157 (E.D.N.Y. Nov. 10, 2016), report and recommendation adopted, 2016 WL 7017364 (E.D.N.Y. Dec. 1, 2016), the court dismissed plaintiff’s employment discrimination claims.

Among other things, it held that plaintiff failed to exhaust her administrative remedies with respect to her gender discrimination and hostile work environment claims under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

That statute

requires a party to exhaust administrative remedies before filing suit in federal court. This requirement affords an administrative agency an opportunity to investigate, mediate, and take remedial action. Therefore, Title VII requires that individuals aggrieved by acts of discrimination file a charge with the EEOC within 180 or, in states like New York that have local administrative mechanisms for pursuing discrimination claims, 300 days after the alleged unlawful employment practice occurred. This requirement is analogous to a statute of limitations. Although the Second Circuit has held that administrative exhaustion is a precondition to bringing [Title VII] claims in federal court, the requirement is not jurisdictional. Thus, it is subject to equitable defenses, such as waiver, estoppel, and equitable tolling.

Here, plaintiff’s EEOC charge alleged only race and national origin discrimination, and made no reference to gender discrimination or hostile work environment.

The question was whether plaintiff’s gender discrimination and hostile work environment claims were “reasonably related to the administrative charge of racial and national origin discrimination that she filed.”

The court explained:

A claim is reasonably related to the filed claim if the conduct complained of would fall within the scope of the EEOC investigation which can reasonably be expected to grow out of the charge that was made. Courts in the Second Circuit have held that claims alleging discrimination based upon a protected classification which are different than the protected classification asserted in administrative filings are not reasonably related. Indeed, courts in this district have held that claims of gender discrimination are not reasonably related to claims based on race or national origin. To give the EEOC adequate notice of a hostile work environment claim, the EEOC charge must reference ‘repeated conduct or the cumulative effect of individual acts’ directed toward the plaintiff.

The court concluded:

As the evidence presented at this juncture lacks any support that the EEOC charge contained any reference to allegations of gender discrimination or hostile work environment, there can be no question but that the charge failed to provide the EEOC with notice to investigate whether plaintiff was subjected to discrimination based on anything other than race and national origin. As such, the Court finds the gender discrimination and hostile work environment claims are not reasonably related to Plaintiff’s EEOC charge. Thus, Plaintiff has failed to exhaust her administrative remedies with respect to her gender and hostile work environment claims.

The court also held that plaintiff’s discrimination, hostile work environment, and pay discrimination claims failed on the merits.

As to plaintiff’s race and gender discrimination claims, the court held that “[p]laintiff cannot make out a prima facie case of discrimination arising from her claims of unequal treatment because the record reveals no evidence that Plaintiff was treated unfairly to similarly situated employees outside of her protected classes.”

It concluded:

Simply put, there is no evidence that Plaintiff was treated adversely based upon race or gender. She has failed to provide any evidence that the College treated her—or any other African American or female—differently than any other similarly situated non-African American or male employees. She alleges no facts to support an inference that any employment decision “occurred under circumstances giving rise to an inference of discriminatory intent. Instead, she relies on nothing more than the familiar faulty syllogism: something bad happened to me at work; I am (fill in the blank with one or more protected categories); therefore it must have happened because I am (fill in the blank with the applicable protected categor[ies] ).

As to plaintiff’s hostile work environment claim, the court held that her “allegations refer to nothing more than a handful of arguably negative isolated incidents that come nowhere near the level of conduct necessary to state a hostile environment cause of action.”

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