Disability-Based Hostile Work Environment Claims Dismissed; “Legitimate Reprimands” Were Not Actionable

In Stryker v. HSBC Securities (USA) et al, 2020 WL 5127461 (SDNY Aug. 31, 2020), the court, inter alia, granted defendants’ motion for summary judgment as to plaintiff’s disability-based hostile work environment claims under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the New York State Human Rights Law, and New York City Human Rights Law.

As to the ADA and NYSHRL, the court explained:

The plaintiff cannot meet the standard under the ADA and the NYSHRL. The plaintiff states that he felt threatened, harassed, and intimidated by [plaintiff’s supervisor]. However, [plaintiff’s supervisor]’s behavior as the plaintiff’s supervisor, including providing him Written Warnings and discussions about his underperformance, are not abusive or hostile. “Legitimate reprimands by an employer are not abuse. Nor are the disciplinary actions taken against [the plaintiff] in response to complaints … evidence” of hostile work environment. [Fox v. Costco Wholesale Corp., 918 F.3d 65, 75 (2d Cir. 2019)] . Furthermore, the defendants allowed the plaintiff to take two leaves of absence within the plaintiff’s first year of employment and provided the plaintiff with multiple different types of training and feedback upon his return. There is no evidence of physically threatening or humiliating actions against the plaintiff. And, unlike in [the] Fox [case], there is no evidence that co-workers engaged in ongoing and pervasive comments mocking the plaintiff’s disability. For the reasons discussed above, the plaintiff has also not shown that any of the actions taken against him were based on his disability.

The court reached the same conclusion as to plaintiff’s claim under the more permissive New York City Human Rights Law, which requires a plaintiff to show only that they were “treated less well than other employees because of” a protected characteristic.

Here, the court found that “plaintiff points to no evidence supporting his claim that he was treated less well than other similarly-situated employees because of his disability” where, for example, he did not show “that giving employees returning from leave a smaller portfolio was anything other than standard procedure, to allow employees time to ramp up their activity.”

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