Section 1981 Hostile Work Environment Race Discrimination Claim Dismissed; Disproportionate Scrutiny, “Ghetto” Comments, Etc. Insufficient

In Wimberly v. automotive Mastermind, Inc., No. 20-2880, 2021 WL 2043623 (SDNY May 21, 2021), the court, inter alia, dismissed, under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), plaintiff’s claim asserting a racially hostile work environment under 42 U.S.C. § 1981.

The law, as summarized by the court:

In order to establish a hostile work environment claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1981, a plaintiff must show that the workplace was so severely permeated with discriminatory intimidation, ridicule, and insult that the terms and conditions of her employment were thereby altered. A hostile working environment is shown when the incidents of harassment occur either in concert or with a regularity that can reasonably be termed pervasive. The plaintiff must show more than a few isolated incidents of racial enmity, although a hostile work environment can also be established through evidence of a single incident of harassment that is extraordinarily severe.

Applying the law, the court explained:

In this case, the plaintiff has failed to establish a hostile work environment. The complaint includes an allegation that the plaintiff and other African American men were subject to disproportionate scrutiny, while white male colleagues made sexualized jokes without consequence, and that an African American colleague was told he sounded “[t]oo [g]hetto” on the phone and was referred to as a “[g]hetto [m]otherfucker.” The complaint also alleges that the plaintiff was the subject of various false accusations. These allegations do not rise to the requisite level of severity and pervasiveness. First, the Court of Appeals and courts in this circuit have found that allegation of reprimands and scrutiny similar to or worse than the conduct alleged in this case do not suffice to create a hostile work environment. …

Second, the allegation regarding a colleague being demeaned appears to capture an isolated incident that did not rise to the level of severity needed to support a claim of a hostile work environment. … Third, the allegations of the plaintiff’s being the subject of various false accusations include no nexus to the plaintiff’s race, let alone the requisite showing that race was a but-for cause, and accordingly cannot support a hostile work environment claim pursuant to Section 1981. Therefore, the complaint does not include sufficient facts to demonstrate a hostile work environment.

[Citations omitted]

Accordingly, the court granted defendant’s motion to dismiss plaintiff’s Section 1981 claim, and dismissed that claim without prejudice.

Share This: