Title VII Co-Worker Hostile Work Environment Claim Dismissed Against RIOC

From Maragh v. The Roosevelt Island Operating Corp. et al, 16-CV-7530, 2021 WL 3501238 (S.D.N.Y. August 5, 2021):

Maragh’s hostile work environment claim is based on the same evidence as his discrimination claim. Thus, it suffers from the same fatal defects, including the dearth of admissible evidence, allegations of facially neutral conduct, and the amorphous and shape-shifting nature of Maragh’s testimony. See, e.g., Gobin v. N.Y.C. Health & Hosps. Corp., No. 04-CV-3207 (WHP), 2006 WL 2038621, at *5 (S.D.N.Y. Jul. 19, 2006) (dismissing a hostile work environment claim where the plaintiff identified three specific harassing statements and otherwise “testified that the comments were made ‘many times.’ When a plaintiff identifies only a few incidents, general allegations of constant abuse must be accompanied by some corroborating evidence to support a claim for hostile work environment.” (cleaned up)); see also, e.g., E.E.O.C. v. Bloomberg L.P., 967 F. Supp. 2d 816, 849 (S.D.N.Y. 2013) (dismissing a hostile work environment claim where the plaintiff offered only “vague, conclusory statements”).

Moreover, to the extent that Maragh’s hostile work environment claims against RIOC are based on a theory of vicarious liability for the alleged acts of his coworkers, those claims fail for an additional reason. An employer cannot be held liable for an alleged hostile environment perpetrated by a plaintiff’s coworkers unless it “either provided no reasonable avenue of complaint or knew of the harassment but did nothing about it.” Quinn v. Green Tree Credit Corp., 159 F. 3d 759, 766 (2d Cir. 1998), abrogated in part on other grounds, Nat’l R.R. Passenger Corp. v. Morgan, 536 U.S. 101 (2002). Here, there is no evidence that RIOC knew about any alleged harassment until at least September 2014, at which point Maragh’s allegations were thoroughly investigated by the DOL. And RIOC provided a “reasonable avenue of complaint” that was memorialized in an employee handbook, see ECF No. 168-1, at 3-4, 36-37; ECF No. 195-1, yet Maragh did not avail himself of the procedures until September 2014.12 Maragh claims that he did not do so sooner because he was “scared,” Maragh Sept. 29, 2020 Dep. 250, but where, as here, there is no evidence that “the employer has ignored or resisted similar complaints or has taken adverse actions against employees in response to such complaints,” Eichler v. Am. Int’l Grp., Inc., No. 05-CV-5167 (FM), 2007 WL 963279, at *12 (S.D.N.Y. Mar. 30, 2007) (internal quotation marks omitted), such subjective beliefs do not justify the failure to pursue a reasonable avenue for complaint.

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