Hostile Work Environment Claim Dismissed; “Objectionable Vignettes” Did Not Give Rise to Actionable Objectively Hostile Environment

In Reyes v. Westchester County Health Care Corp., 19-CV-08916, 2021 WL 310945 (S.D.N.Y. Jan. 29, 2021), the court, inter alia, dismissed plaintiff’s pregnancy- and national origin-based hostile work environment claims.

From the decision:

To state a hostile work environment claim under the Title VII, Plaintiff must allege: “[1] that the harassment was ‘sufficiently severe or pervasive to alter the conditions of the victim’s employment and create an abusive working environment,’ and [2] that a specific basis exists for imputing the objectionable conduct to the employer.” Alfano v. Costello, 294 F.3d 365, 373 (2d Cir. 2002) (quoting Perry v. Ethan Allen, Inc., 115 F.3d 143, 149 (2d Cir. 1997) (alterations in original)); see also Fox v. Costco Wholesale Corp., 918 F.3d 65, 74 (2d Cir. 2019) (outlining the same elements under the ADA); Daly v. Westchester Cty. Bd. of Legislators, No. 19-CV-4642, 2021 WL 229672, at *9 (S.D.N.Y. Jan. 22, 2021) (noting the same elements under the Rehabilitation Act). The offensive conduct must be linked to the “protected characteristic.” Rivera v. Bd. of Educ. of City Sch. Dist. of City of New York, No. 19-CV-11624, 2020 WL 7496282, at *9 (S.D.N.Y. Dec. 21, 2020) (internal quotation marks omitted). While a single incident may suffice, “[a]s a general rule, incidents must be more than episodic; they must be sufficiently continuous and concerted in order to be deemed pervasive.” Alfano, 294 F.3d at 374 (internal quotation marks omitted). The test requires both that the conduct “create[s] an objectively hostile or abusive work environment, and that the victim … subjectively perceive[d] that environment to be abusive.” Id. (internal quotation marks omitted). WMC argues that this claim must be dismissed because Plaintiff has not pled a pervasively hostile environment. (Def. Br. at 18-21). The Court agrees.

Plaintiff has not described an objectively hostile workplace; rather, at most, she described a collection of vignettes that she found objectionable. Indeed, instead of alleging that her working conditions were altered in some way, Plaintiff pled affirmatively that she “has always done her job diligently and adequately and has never had any disciplinary proceedings brought against her.” (Compl. ¶ 18). Looking to the totality of the circumstances, the incidents were episodic and do not suggest a work environment that was so permeated with harassment as to alter the terms of her employment.

Notably, the court did not address defendants’ argument that plaintiff “never connected the offensive treatment to pregnancy”, in light of its conclusion that plaintiff “failed to plead an objectively hostile work environment” based on either national origin or pregnancy.

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