Hostile Work Environment Claim Against NYPD Dismissed; Anti-Albanian Comments Were “Sporadic”

In Vucinaj v. New York City Police Department et al, 2020 WL 4677597 (SDNY Aug. 12, 2020), the court, inter alia, dismissed plaintiff’s hostile work environment claim.

From the decision:

It is clear, based on Plaintiff’s testimony, that he subjectively perceived the environment at the NYPD to be hostile during his tenure. But the acts and statements Plaintiff describes, including comments related to his Albanian national identity, are insufficiently severe or pervasive to constitute an objectively hostile work environment, because they occurred only sporadically over a seven-year period, and, after review in 2015, an EEO investigator informed Plaintiff that the “offensive material was removed from the [W]ebsite,” which Plaintiff confirmed during his deposition. See Alvarado v. Mount Pleasant Cottage Sch. Dist., 404 F. Supp. 3d 763, 782 (S.D.N.Y. 2019) (concluding the same where plaintiff alleged four incidents where defendant used slurs and intimidating language related to plaintiff’s race and national origin, noting that the remarks were “offensive” and “seemingly and understandably engendered offensive feelings,” but “d[id] not meet the requisite standard for a Title VII claim”); Morrison v. United Parcel Serv., Inc., No. 17 Civ. 2885, 2019 WL 109401, at *3 (S.D.N.Y. Jan. 4, 2019) (“One or two isolated uses of racially insensitive language are rarely sufficient, but rather, the plaintiff must demonstrate a ‘steady barrage of opprobrious racial comments.’ ” (quoting Tolbert, 790 F.3d at 439)); see also Meritor Sav. Bank, FSB v. Vinson, 477 U.S. 57, 67 (1986) (“[M]ere utterance of an ethnic or racial epithet which engenders offensive feelings in an employee would not affect the conditions of employment to sufficiently significant degree to violate Title VII.” (internal quotation mark omitted)). Because the analysis is the same, summary judgment is granted to Defendants on the hostile work environment claims asserted under both Title VII and the NYSHRL.

The court also dismissed plaintiff’s claim asserted under the New York City Human Rights Law, noting the absence of evidence that the City “acquiesced” in any of the alleged discriminatory comments so as to come under N.Y.C. Admin. Code § 8-107(13)(b).

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