Hostile Work Environment Claim Against CUNY Dismissed; Seven Offensive Comments and “Rude” Treatment Held Insufficient

In Alshami v. The City University of New York, No. 160183/2019, 2021 WL 2226424 (N.Y. Sup Ct, New York County June 02, 2021), the court, inter alia, dismissed plaintiff’s hostile work environment claim asserted under the New York State Human Rights Law.

Specifically, plaintiff alleges that his co-worker made numerous offensive and derogatory comments about plaintiff’s national origin (Yemeni) and religion (Muslim) between 2012 and 2019.

Plaintiff recalls the following comments:

1) In September 2016, following media reports about bomb incidents allegedly perpetrated by a Muslim Afghani national in New Jersey and Manhattan, the co-worker told plaintiff that he should avoid those areas to avoid the police arresting plaintiff because he is Muslim;

2) In November 2016, the co-worker told plaintiff that “fucking Yemeni people carry AK-47’s in the bodegas”;

3) In May 2018, the co-worker said “I know the people in Yemen killed their own president” and “I know you guys go crazy with ya guns”;

4) In July 2018, the co-worker stated to plaintiff, “They might send your ass back to Yemen because you’re not a real Muslim” and “you might not come back to America because Yemen is part of the travel ban”;

5) In March 2019, plaintiff’s co-worker told him that “I know you people hate American now after the Saudis bombed Yemen,” and that “you need to put your AK-47 away before the government finds it”;

6) In April 2019, as female college students were entering a campus building, the co-worker asked plaintiff if he had found a Syrian girl to date, and told him that “you should marry a beautiful Syrian girl so you guys can join ISIS since you already have an AK-47 from Yemen”; and

7) In September 2019, the co-worker asked plaintiff “What’s up with your country, we going to have to see what you do,” and “you guys are on the most watch list and you’re the next one on the list.” He also commented to another officer that “in [plaintiff’s] country they have rifles in their bodegas.”

Applying the law, the court held that “[s]even discriminatory or offensive remarks over a three-year period[*] do not constitute a hostile work environment” and “[o]ne instance each of being yelled at and rudely treated by a supervisor also do not constitute a sufficient basis for stating a cause of action for a hostile work environment.”

*It is unclear why the court referred to a “three-year” period, in light of its recounting of events during the seven-year period from 2012-2019.

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