“Hearsay”-Based Hostile Work Environment Claim Dismissed

In Gold v. Titlevest Agency LLC, et al., Defendants., 2020 WL 2835570 (S.D.N.Y. June 1, 2020), the court, inter alia, granted defendants’ motion for summary judgment on plaintiff’s gender-based hostile work environment claims under Title VII and the New York State and City Human Rights Laws.

In sum, plaintiff alleged (among other things) that her boss favored a group of younger, female junior employees (the so-called “Brian’s Angels”).

In dismissing her claims, the court explained:

Tormey’s [plaintiff’s boss] treatment of the “Brian’s Angels” cannot provide a basis for hostile work environment claims under Title VII, the NYSHRL, or the NYCHRL. At her deposition, Plaintiff testified that she never saw Tormey inappropriately touch any of these women, never personally observed them socializing outside of work, and did not recall hearing Tormey say anything to them that constituted sexual harassment. It is well established that Title VII’s and the NYSHRL’s “prohibition against hostile work environment discrimination affords no claim to a person who experiences it by hearsay.” Leibovitz v. New York City Transit Auth., 252 F.3d 179, 182 (2d Cir. 2001). And while there is some authority to suggest that NYCHRL can in some instances cover conduct that is not personally experienced by a plaintiff, these cases involve conduct that actually affects or concerns the plaintiff—for example a situation where “colleagues repeatedly mocked [a plaintiff’s] sexual orientation behind his back” and the “plaintiff learned about this behavior.” Sletten v. LiquidHub, Inc., No. 13-cv-1146, 2014 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 94697, at *24-*25 (S.D.N.Y. July 10, 2014); see also Garrigan v. Ruby Tuesday, Inc., No. 14-cv-155, 2014 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 70467, at *10 (S.D.N.Y. May 22, 2014). In contrast to these cases, Plaintiff never explains how Tormey’s alleged favoritism for the “Brian’s Angels” caused her to be treated less well. To the contrary, it is undisputed that Tormey supported substantial salary increases and bonuses for Plaintiff. And although Plaintiff takes issue with barbs made by Tormey regarding her compensation and the expendability of her position, there is nothing about those comments to suggest that they were related to gender. Plaintiff herself testified that she does not remember Tormey saying anything “inappropriate” to any female employee. Gold Tr. 186. Based on this record, no reasonable factfinder could determine that Tormey treated Plaintiff less well because of her gender. [Citations omitted.]

The court also considered, and rejected, plaintiff’s claims that other actions taken against her amounted to unlawful gender discrimination.

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