Title VII Hostile Work Environment Claim Dismissed Against Uniondale Union Free School District;

In Guity v. Uniondale Union Free School Dist., 2019 WL 3402280 (E.D.N.Y. July 26, 2019), the court, inter alia, dismissed plaintiff’s race/ethnicity-based hostile work environment claim under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Plaintiff – a high school Spanish teacher – alleged among other things that she was targeted because she was African American and not Hispanic.

Summarizing the law, the court explained that in order to make out a hostile work environment claim,

[a] plaintiff must show that the workplace is permeated with discriminatory intimidation, ridicule, and insult that is sufficiently severe or pervasive to alter the conditions of the victim’s employment and create an abusive working environment. … To determine whether a work environment is hostile, the court considers the totality of the circumstances, including (1) the frequency of the conduct, (2) the severity of the conduct, (3) whether the conduct is physically threatening or humiliating, or a mere offensive utterance, and (4) whether the conduct unreasonably interferes with the employee’s work performance. … The plaintiff must demonstrate either that a single incident was extraordinarily severe, or that a series of incidents were ‘sufficiently continuous and concerted’ to have altered the conditions of her working environment. … Isolated incidents or episodic conduct will not support a hostile work environment claim. … For racist comments, slurs, and jokes to constitute a hostile work environment, there must be more than a few isolated incidents of racial enmity.

Applying the law, the court observed that “plaintiff cites only one incident during which the defendants raised the subject of ethnicity—a discussion about whether Spanish teachers were Hispanic or not—and makes no claim that the defendants discussed the plaintiff’s race” and “even accepting the plaintiff’s characterizations of the defendants’ comments as racially discriminatory, she cites only sporadic remarks over the course of two months.” It held that this was insufficient to support a hostile work environment claim.

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