Hostile Work Environment Claim Dismissal Affirmed; “Handful of Comments Made Over a Decade” Held Insufficient

In Rodriguez v. County of Nassau, Nassau County Commission on Human Rights, 2020 WL 5948904 (2d Cir. Oct. 8, 2020) (Summary Order), the court, inter alia, affirmed the dismissal of plaintiff’s gender and national origin-based hostile work environment claim.

After outlining the “black-letter law” relating to this claim, the court summarized plaintiff’s contentions:

In support of her hostile work environment claim, apart from her testimony about Syed’s comment (which we disallow because of her prior denial), Rodriguez points to alleged comments by various County employees regarding her Haitian national origin, and asserts – primarily based on conversations that she had with co-workers – that McRae told employees not to work with her and pressured employees to file false reports of misconduct against her in order to get her fired.

Applying the law, the court explained:

When viewing the evidence presented as a whole and in the light most favorable to Rodriguez, we find that the alleged incidents were not sufficiently severe or pervasive to establish a hostile work environment based on gender or national origin. With respect to the handful of comments made over a decade, they are too few and too isolated to materially alter her working conditions. With respect to McRae having instructed others not to work with her and to file false reports about her, her only evidence about such instructions was inadmissible hearsay. Her evidence, furthermore, did not show that any false memoranda were actually filed against her and, in any event, she stated in her affidavit that “[t]here are no write ups in my file regarding me not doing my assigned tasks.”

Finally, the only admissible evidence Rodriguez provided indicating her colleagues refused to work with her was an affidavit from another employee claiming that McRae instructed the employee “to no longer work with Ms. Rodriguez anymore because she has a lawsuit against the County.” But this evidence failed to show that such actions were taken because of Rodriguez’s gender and/or national origin. See Alfano [v. Costello], 294 F.3d [365,] 374 (stating that “it is ‘axiomatic’ that in order to establish a sex-based hostile work environment under Title VII, a plaintiff must demonstrate that the conduct occurred because of her sex” (quoting Brown v. Henderson, 257 F.3d 246, 252 (2d Cir. 2001))). In her brief on appeal, she merely states that the “false reports of misconduct perpetrated by Mr. McRae [are] an attempt to discredit her,” rather than on the basis of her gender or national origin. [Citations Omitted.]

Based on this, the court “agree[d] with the district court that Rodriguez has not produced sufficient competent evidence to create a material issue of fact as to the existence of a hostile work environment attributable to discrimination based on gender national origin.”

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