Sex-Based Hostile Work Environment Claim Sufficiently Alleged; Allegations Included Voice Mocking

In Krul v. Megan J. Brennan, Postmaster General, U.S. Postal Service et al, 2020 WL 6736886 (N.D.N.Y. Nov. 17, 2020), the court, inter alia, denied defendants’ motion to dismiss plaintiff’s claim of gender-based hostile work environment asserted under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

The court summarized the legal standard in the context of the present motion:

To state a claim for a hostile work environment in violation of Title VII, a plaintiff must plead facts that would tend to show that the complained of conduct: (1) is objectively severe or pervasive—that is, … creates an environment that a reasonable person would find hostile or abusive; (2) creates an environment that the plaintiff subjectively perceives as hostile or abusive; and (3) creates such an environment because of the plaintiff’s sex. To avoid dismissal of a claim alleging hostile work environment, the plaintiff need only plead facts to support the conclusion that she was faced with harassment … of such quality or quantity that a reasonable employee would find the conditions of her employment altered for the worse. [Citations and internal quotation marks omitted.]

Applying the law, the court held that plaintiff’s allegations were sufficiently alleged:

Defendants contend that this claim must be dismissed because Krul has failed to allege that any mistreatment occurred because of her sex. According to defendants, plaintiff has totally failed to grapple with the fact that her allegations, even consider together under a “totality of the circumstances” analysis, are insufficient to plausibly show that her working conditions were altered by sex-based harassment.

Upon review, this argument will also be rejected. Krul’s proposed second amended pleading alleges a continuing course of mistreatment from District Manager Kelly and, at times, from HR Manager Lynch. Among other things, plaintiff alleges that Kelly repeatedly treated plaintiff’s male peers more favorably and mocked plaintiff in a high-pitched voice when she complained about it. According to plaintiff, this behavior continued to escalate, causing her increased anxiety and emotional harm, until she could not longer tolerate it and was forced to retire early. [Emphasis added; citations omitted.]

The court concluded that “[w]hile these facts alone might be insufficient to survive summary judgment after discovery, these factual allegations are sufficient to avoid pre-answer dismissal of this claim.”

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