Court Explains Dismissal of Plaintiff’s Accent-Based Hostile Work Environment Claim

From Kho v. New York and Presbyterian Hospital, 2018 WL 4759739 (S.D.N.Y. Sept. 30, 2018):

The Hospital is entitled to summary judgment on Kho’s hostile work environment claims. These claims appear predicated on: (1) Holmes’ [plaintiff’s manager] comments regarding Kho’s accent and (2) occasions on which Holmes allegedly yelled at Kho. [T]he Court declines to consider the second set of events in resolving this motion.

As for the comments Holmes allegedly made with respect to Kho’s accent, they fail to raise a triable issue of fact, principally for four reasons: (1) the comments were not sufficiently pervasive or severe; (2) they were reasonably related to Kho’s ability to adequately perform her job responsibilities; (3) the comments do not evince any discriminatory animus on behalf of Holmes; and (4) they were not made in a manner intended to humiliate or embarrass her.

No reasonable juror could find that Holmes’ comments were “continuous and concerted” or constituted a “steady barrage of opprobrious … comments.” [Footnote: Kho has never provided an estimate of how often Holmes purportedly made these comments about her accent. The most precise description the Court has identified is that he made the comments “on a number of occasions.”] …

This is especially true in light of the context in which these comments were made. As discussed at length with respect to Kho’s discrimination claims, the comments were made by the very supervisor who hired her in the context of performance reviews and were reasonably related to her performance. Particularly bearing this in mind, the comments do not evince discriminatory animus on behalf of Holmes,

Finally, it is significant that these comments were not made in the presence of Kho’s co-workers or in any other manner intended to humiliate her. … Based on the totality of the circumstances, therefore, no reasonable jury could conclude that these comments created a hostile work environment.

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