Hostile Work Environment Claim Insufficiently Alleged; Motion to Amend Denied

In Olsson v. ABM Taxi Dispatch LaGuardia Airport, 2020 WL 5038742 (S.D.N.Y. Aug. 26, 2020), the court, inter alia, denied what it construed as plaintiff’s motion to amend his complaint to add a hostile work environment claim under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the New York State Human Rights Law.

After summarizing the standard for pleading a hostile work environment under Title VII (and the NYSHRL, which involves application of essentially the same standard), the court applied the law to the facts:

Here, Plaintiff has not pleaded facts sufficient to demonstrate that he was subject to a hostile work environment. As in the Complaint, Plaintiff’s supplemental filings allege only one incident in which his race was referenced by a co-worker: when Orval “referred to Orientals as having ‘chinky’ eyes.” (Dec. 2, 2019 Pltf. Ltr. (Dkt. No. 25) at 8; see also Cmplt. (Dkt. No. 1-1) at 14) This single remark is not sufficient to plausibly allege an “objectively hostile or abusive work environment.” Patane, 508 F.3d at 113; Harvin v. Manhattan & Bronx Surface Transit Operating Auth., No. 14-CV-5125 (CBA) (RER), 2018 WL 1603872, at *11 (E.D.N.Y. Mar. 30, 2018), aff’d, 767 F. App’x 123 (2d Cir. 2019) (“[A] single remark evincing a discriminatory intent is an insufficient basis for a hostile work environment claim.”).

Plaintiff also complains about his black co-workers’ repeated use of the “N” word (Dec. 2, 2019 Pltf. Ltr. (Dkt. No. 25) at 8), but this slur was not directed at Plaintiff or at Plaintiff’s race. As the Court previously explained, the “N” word was used with “racial enmity and as a racial epithet” only when Plaintiff disparaged Orval and Beekman. (Sept. 18, 2019 Order (Dkt. No. 20) at 20) The co-workers’ use of the word did not give rise to a hostile work environment as to Plaintiff. See Brooks v. CBS Radio, Inc., No. CIV.A. 07-0519, 2007 WL 4454312, at *12 (E.D. Pa. Dec. 17, 2007), aff’d, 342 F. App’x 771 (3d Cir. 2009) (a plaintiff cannot show a hostile work environment “ ‘by pointing to comments that were directed at other individuals[,]’ because the plaintiff ‘cannot show that the comments would not have been uttered or written but for his race if [the plaintiff] was neither on the receiving end nor the subject of any comments’ ”) (quoting Caver v. City of Trenton, 420 F.3d 243, 263 (3d Cir. 2005)) (emphasis omitted).

Having determined that plaintiff has not alleged facts that plausibly give rise to a hostile work environment claim, the court concluded that granting leave to amend as to this claim would be futile, and, accordingly, denied plaintiff’s motion to amend with respect to this claim.

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