Hostile Work Environment Claim Insufficiently Alleged Against NYC Department of Education, Court Holds

A recent decision, Ellis v. New York City Department of Education, 2020 WL 1166056 (S.D.N.Y. March 11, 2020), illustrates that in order to properly plead a hostile work environment claim under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, merely invoking the words “abuse” and “hostile” to describe one’s work situation is not enough.

From the decision:

Ellis’s hostile work environment claim is similarly conclusory and lacks sufficient factual allegations to meet his initial burden. “To establish a hostile work environment under Title VII … or § 1983, 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.” Littlejohn, 795 F.3d at 320-21 (internal quotations omitted). Courts look to the totality of the circumstances, including the frequency and severity of the discrimination, to determine whether a work environment is sufficiently hostile to rise to the level of an actionable claim. See Harris v. Forklift Sys., 510 U.S. 17, 21-23 (1993). Ellis’s claims are almost entirely conclusory; he alleges he was subjected to “abuse and [a] hostile situation at work.” (Compl. ¶¶ 54, 66.) The complaint therefore lacks sufficient factual allegations of specific and pervasive instances of hostility that “unreasonably interfer[ed] with [his] work performance.” Harris, 510 U.S. at 23. The hostile work environment claim is therefore dismissed.