Firefighter’s Religion-Based Hostile Work Environment Claim Dismissal Affirmed

In Reichman v. City of New York, No. 2016-03043, 8141/12, 2020 WL 465159 (N.Y.A.D. 2 Dept., Jan. 29, 2020), the court, inter alia, affirmed the dismissal of plaintiff’s hostile work environment claim.

Plaintiff (a self-identifying-Jewish firefighter) alleged, among other things, that a fellow firefighter made an anti-Semitic remark, and that the plaintiff was subjected to numerous incidences of retaliation after he complained about it, including receiving an unfavorable performance evaluation and being transferred to another firehouse.

The court summarized the legal standard applicable under the New York City Human Rights Law with respect to such a claim:

Under the NYCHRL, a plaintiff claiming a hostile work environment need only demonstrate that he or she was treated “less well than other employees” because of the relevant characteristic. The conduct alleged must, however, exceed “what a reasonable victim of discrimination would consider petty slights and trivial inconveniences”, and “mere personality conflicts” will not suffice to establish a hostile work environment. [Citations omitted.]

Applying the law, the court explained that “defendants established their prima facie entitlement to judgment as a matter of law dismissing the causes of action alleging the existence of a hostile work environment by demonstrating that the conduct and remarks which the plaintiff complained of were not so severe or pervasive as to permeate the workplace and alter the conditions of the plaintiff’s employment … and that the plaintiff was not treated less well than other employees because of his religion”, and that in opposition the plaintiff did not raise a triable issue of fact.

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