Title VII Hostile Work Environment Claim Dismissed; Notwithstanding Allegations of Verbal “Harassment”, Screaming, Criticism, Etc.

A recent decision, Konteye v. NYC Dept. of Education et al, 2019 WL 3229068 (S.D.N.Y. July 18, 2019), yet again illustrates that not every perceived workplace slight gives rise to an actionable “hostile work environment” claim.

From the decision:

[C]onsidering the totality of the circumstances, Plaintiff failed to meet his burden of showing that “[his] workplace [was] permeated with discriminatory intimidation, ridicule, and insult that [was] sufficiently severe or pervasive to alter the conditions of [his] employment and create an abusive work environment.” Littlejohn v. City of N.Y., 795 F.3d 297, 320–21 (2d Cir. 2015) (quoting Harris v. Forklift Sys., Inc., 510 U.S. 17, 21 (1993)). Plaintiff vaguely alleges that Gates “verbally harass[ed] [him]” and “forcefully criticized [him] by intending to harm and produce negative emotions on [him] … [and by] screaming at [him] in the presence of the Assistant principal.” (Opp’n at 2.) None of these allegations are sufficiently severe or pervasive to rise to the level of “discriminatory intimidation,” “ridicule,” or “insult,” such that a trier of fact could find that Plaintiff was subjected to a hostile work environment. See e.g. Littlejohn, 795 F.3d at 321 (finding no hostile work environment where the plaintiff’s supervisor made negative statements about her, was impatient and used harsh tones with her, avoided her when she was nearby, declined to meet with her, required her to recreate reasonable accommodation logs, replaced her at meetings, wrongfully reprimanded her, increased her reporting schedule, and sarcastically told her “you feel like you are being left out,” and that she did not “understand the culture” at the workplace); see also Kotcher v. Rosa & Sullivan Appliance Ctr., Inc., 957 F.2d 59, 62 (2d Cir. 1992) (the actions that would create a hostile work environment must be “repeated and continuous,” and not merely “isolated acts or occasional episodes.”).

In light of this, the court granted defendants’ motion for summary judgment on plaintiff’s hostile work environment claim under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

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