Age Discrimination Claim Dismissed; Favoritism Existed But Insufficiently Connected to Age

In Abadir v. Center One, LLC, 2020 WL 4474070 (W.D.N.Y. August 4, 2020), the court, inter alia, dismissed plaintiff’s age-based hostile work environment claim under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967.

The court summarized the black-letter law as follows:

To oppose summary judgment on a hostile work environment claim, this Court once held that the plaintiff “must elicit evidence (1) that the workplace was permeated with discriminatory intimidation that was sufficiently severe or pervasive to alter the conditions of her work environment, and (2) that a specific basis exists for imputing the conduct that created the hostile environment to the employer[.]

The sufficiency of a hostile work environment claim is subject to both subjective and objective measurement: the plaintiff must demonstrate that she personally considered the environment hostile, and that the environment rose to some objective level of hostility. …

Absent extraordinary severity, a plaintiff must show that a series of incidents were sufficiently continuous and concerted to have altered the conditions of her working environment. Factors to consider in examining whether a work environment is sufficiently hostile or abusive to support a Title VII claim include the frequency of the discriminatory conduct; its severity; whether it is physically threatening or humiliating, or a mere offensive utterance; and whether it unreasonably interferes with an employee’s performance. The appropriate test is whether the harassment is of such quality or quantity that a reasonable employee would find the conditions of her employment altered for the worse.

Plaintiff needs to demonstrate that she was subject to hostility because of her membership in a protected class, here due to her age …; thus an environment harsh to both young and old does not constitute a hostile working environment under the civil right statutes. Isolated, minor acts or occasional episodes do not warrant relief. … [A] few isolated incidents of ‘boorish or offensive use of language’ are generally insufficient to establish a hostile work environment

For an ADEA claim, plaintiff has to show that age was the only reason for the unwanted conduct.

[Citations and internal quotation marks omitted.]

Applying the law, the court explained:

Donohue’s favoritism permeated the work environment to alter Plaintiff’s conditions of employment. The difficulty … is tying this to Plaintiff’s age to be discriminatory intimidation[.] Defendant’s conduct within 300 days of Plaintiff filing her EEOC charge fails to show age discrimination. The events within that period (Plaintiff’s complaints about Donohue to the seizure of the company cellphone) do not indicate that they were due to Plaintiff’s age or were comparative to younger employees’ treatment. Instead, Plaintiff tried to argue different benefits and duties of younger employees when she was paid more and had a distinct position in Defendant. Plaintiff endured a hostile relationship with Donohue which Plaintiff surmises is due to her age, but Plaintiff fails to establish a prima facie case that she suffered a hostile work environment due to age. Most of the age-based allegations are time barred. Those events within the limitations period do not show a workplace permeated with discriminatory intimidation to state a hostile workplace; rather, these appear to be isolated instances that may not have involved Plaintiff’s age. [Citations omitted.]

Based on this, the court granted defendant’s motion for summary judgment on this ground.

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