A recent decision, Dudley v. New York City Housing Authority, 2017 WL 4315010 (S.D.N.Y. Sept. 25, 2017), reaffirms the principle that a hostile work environment claim must arise from hostility because of a protected characteristic.
In this case, plaintiff alleged that he “was subjected to a hostile work environment in retaliation for his prior protected activities.” (Emphasis added by court.)
While plaintiff contended that the “cumulative effect” of several retaliatory actions “created an abusive environment”, he did “not contend that Defendants engaged in this alleged conduct because of his race or disability[.]”
This, held the court, was fatal to plaintiff’s hostile work environment claim:
Plaintiff’s “retaliatory hostile work environment” claim fails as a matter of law. As explained above, a hostile work environment claim under Title VII and the ADA requires proof that “ ‘the hostile conduct occurred because of a protected characteristic.’ ” Grewal, 2017 WL 1215752, at *11 (quoting Tolbert, 790 F.3d at 439) (emphasis added). Plaintiff does not argue, however, that Defendants’ alleged abusive conduct occurred because of a protected characteristic – that is, because of his race or disability. Instead, Plaintiff contends only that the abuse occurred “in retaliation for his prior protected activities.” (Pltf. Opp. Br. (Dkt. No. 51) at 28) While Plaintiff’s allegations will be considered in the context of his retaliation claims, they do not provide a basis for a hostile work environment claim. (Emphasis added by court.)
Therefore, the court awarded defendants summary judgment on plaintiff’s hostile work environment claims under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Americans with Disabilities Act.