Hostile Work Environment Claim by Pakistani Pharmacist Plaintiff Dismissed Against NYC Health & Hospitals Corp.

In Farooq v. New York City Health & Hospitals Corporation et al, 19-cv-6294, 2020 WL 5018387 (S.D.N.Y. August 25, 2020), the court, inter alia, granted defendant’s motion to dismiss plaintiff’s race/national origin/religion-based hostile work environment claim.

The court summarized the applicable law as follows:

To prevail on a hostile work environment claim, a plaintiff must show that his or her “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.” Redd v. N.Y. Div. of Parole, 678 F.3d 166, 175 (2d Cir. 2012) (alterations and internal quotation marks omitted). In determining whether such an environment exists, a court must consider “all the circumstances,” including “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 work performance.” Nat’l R.R. Passenger Corp. v. Morgan, 536 U.S. 101, 116 (2002) (internal quotation marks omitted). Further, “a plaintiff alleging a hostile work environment claim must also establish that ‘the conduct at issue was not merely tinged with offensive connotations, but actually constituted discrimination because of’ ” race or another protected category.

Applying the law, the court concluded:

Measured against those standards, Farooq’s claim falls short. Farooq makes only a handful of allegations in support of his claims for hostile work environment. … Many are his and his colleagues’ subjective views of Farooqi’s conduct. See, e.g., SAC ¶ 77 (alleging that Farooq “and his colleagues, many of whom speak English as a second language, also feel bullied and intimidated” by Farooqi); id. ¶ 82 (alleging that most remaining Pakistani pharmacists have filed complaints with the EEOC); see also id. ¶ 81 (alleging that “five Pakistani pharmacists … have left or were forced into retirement”).[] But because “a hostile work environment claim has both objective and subjective prongs … the subjective belief of [Farooq] and his co-workers that there was … discrimination afoot — however strongly felt — is insufficient to satisfy his burden at the pleading stage.” …

Farooq’s other allegations do not push his claims over the plausibility line either. For instance, that Farooqi “forced” the former supervising pharmacist, a Pakistani man, to retire by “hir[ing] new staff without [his] knowledge,” SAC ¶ 87-88, does not suggest that the work environment was “permeated with discriminatory intimidation, ridicule, and insult,” Redd, 678 F.3d at 175. And Farooq’s allegation that Farooqi denied him and other Pakistani pharmacists unidentified religious accommodations, see SAC ¶¶ 79-80, “are at most allegations in support of an inference of discrimination, not examples of ‘intimidation, ridicule, and insult’ in support of a claim for hostile work environment[.] … That leaves only Farooq’s conclusory allegation that Farooqi is “very derogatory during her oral communications and uses abusive language,” SAC ¶ 76, and a single example — that Farooqi once “mocked [Farooq’s] spelling errors” in response to an email regarding mistreatment by a non-Pakistani pharmacist, id. ¶ 78. Even considered together and in the light most favorable to Farooq, these facts are “neither severe nor pervasive enough to alter the conditions of his work environment.” …

In any event, Farooq does not adequately allege that he was disfavored because of his race, national origin, or religion. … He does not even allege that the treatment was directed only at older Pakistani men. … Nor does Farooq allege that any of Farooqi’s comments concerned his race, national origin, or religion.

Based on this, the court concluded that plaintiff’s hostile work environment claims must be dismissed.

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