Hostile Work Environment Claim Dismissed; Allegation That Female Co-Workers “Talked Too Much” Amounted to “Episodic”, “Inoffensive Utterances”

In Harrisman v. The City of New York Department of Transportation et al, 2020 WL 5211043 (S.D.N.Y. Sept. 1, 2020), the court, inter alia, dismissed plaintiff’s religion-based hostile work environment claim.

Initially, the court summarized the “black-letter” law governing this claim:

To prove a prima facie case of a hostile work environment, a plaintiff must demonstrate that (1) his or her workplace was permeated with discriminatory intimidation that was sufficiently severe or pervasive to alter the conditions of the work environment and (2) a specific basis exists for imputing the conduct that created the hostile environment to the defendant. See, e.g., Gorzynski v. JetBlue Airways Corp., 596 F.3d 93, 102-03 (2d Cir. 2010). “A plaintiff must show not only that [ ]he subjectively perceived the environment to be abusive, but also that the environment was objectively hostile and abusive.” Id. at 102. The law in this Circuit is clear that “[i]solated incidents usually will not suffice to establish a hostile work environment.” Redd v. N.Y. Div. of Parole, 678 F.3d 166, 175-76 (2d Cir. 2012). That is, “[t]he incidents of allegedly offensive conduct must also be ‘more than episodic; they must be sufficiently continuous and concerted in order to be deemed pervasive.’ ” Holtz v. Rockefeller & Co., 258 F.3d 62, 75 (2d Cir. 2001) (quoting Perry v. Ethan Allen, Inc., 115 F.3d 143, 149 (2d Cir. 1997)). The Second Circuit has also noted that “many bosses are harsh, unjust, and rude,” but that this fact alone is insufficient to create a hostile work environment claim. Alfano v. Costello, 294 F.3d 365, 377 (2d Cir. 2002). Hostile work environment claims are evaluated by looking at the totality of the circumstances, which may 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 work performance.” Harris v. Forklift Sys., Inc., 510 U.S. 17, 23 (1993).

Applying the law, the court concluded:

Applying these standards here, the Court concludes that Harrisman fails to plead a plausible hostile work environment claim. The gravamen of Harrisman’s hostile work environment claim is that his female co-workers talked too much and, in acting like “gender predators,” intimidated and harassed him because they did not like his religious views regarding women. See Compl. 4, 106. Harrisman, however, provides no facts beyond his own subjective beliefs to suggest that his female co-workers uttered derogatory comments in his presence or targeted him because of his religion. At most, Harrisman’s allegations that his female co-workers occasionally talked too much while he was trying to work represent “episodic” instances of “mere [in]offensive utterance[s],” Harris, 510 U.S. at 23, and thus are neither severe nor pervasive enough to alter the conditions of his work environment.

The court then proceeded to dismiss plaintiff’s Title VII retaliation claim and his claim under New York Civil Service Law § 72.

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