National Origin- and Age-Based Hostile Work Environment Claims Dismissed

From MARIOS PANAYIOTOU, Plaintiff, v. N.Y.C. DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION, Defendant., 2019 WL 2453438, at *5 (E.D.N.Y., 2019):

As to the alleged national origin- and age-based animus, the incidents as described are not severe or pervasive enough to support a hostile work environment claim. Again, the plaintiff cites the principal’s instruction to “speak clearly” – an alleged reference to the plaintiff’s Greek-Cypriot accent – as an example of hostility. (ECF No. 1 at 13.) This allegation is so vague and innocuous that it fails to provide the defendants with fair notice of the factual grounds supporting the plaintiff’s hostile work environment claim. See Hill v. Rayboy-Brauestein, 467 F. Supp. 2d 336, 360 (S.D.N.Y. 2006) (“Though it is true that facially neutral comments may contribute to the hostility of an employee’s work environment, there must be some basis to infer that the facially neutral comments are part of a workplace permeated with discrimination” (internal citation omitted)). The plaintiff also alleges that in 2014, the assistant principal said that the plaintiff “was better off teaching in Greece,” and “frequently” told the plaintiff that “the cultural differences [were] not on [his] side.” (ECF No. 1 at 13-14.) The “allegation that these remarks were ‘frequent’ is simply too vague, because the precise frequency of such comments is of great importance in analyzing a hostile work environment claim.” Almontaser v. N.Y.C. Dep’t of Edu., No. 13-cv-5621 (ILG) (VMS), 2014 WL 3110019, at *8 (E.D.N.Y. July 8, 2014). Without more specificity, the plaintiff’s hostile work environment claim under Title VII is dismissed.

The plaintiff alleges only one age-based incident: the assistant principal commented in 2016 “that the ‘administration preferred younger teachers, as unfair as that is.’ ” (ECF No. 1 at 13.) A single instance of age-based animus cannot support a hostile work environment claim. Moreover, hostile work environment claims generally consist of more blatantly offensive conduct than alleged here. See, e.g., Aiello v. Stamford Hosp., No. 09-cv-1161, 2011 WL 3439459, at *25–26 (D. Conn. Aug. 8, 2011) (finding no hostile work environment on summary judgment where the plaintiff was called “old man” several times a week and was also the subject of offensive drawings). Accordingly, the plaintiff’s hostile work environment under the ADEA is also dismissed.

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