Pregnancy-Related Hostile Work Environment Claims Survive Motion to Dismiss; Allegations Included Lactation Comments

In Zuckerman v. GW Acquisition LLC d/b/a G&W Industries et al, 20-CV-8742, 2021 WL 4267815 (S.D.N.Y. Sept. 20, 2021), the court, inter alia, denied defendants’ motion to dismiss plaintiff’s pregnancy/lactation-related hostile work environment claims.

From the decision:

The Court finds that Plaintiff has pled sufficient facts to indicate that the three elements of a hostile work environment claim have been met. The many comments that Plaintiff alleges Defendants made are enough on their own to support a finding that a reasonable person could deem the environment hostile or abusive. The comments were “more than episodic” and were “sufficiently continuous and concerted in order to be deemed pervasive.” Alfano v. Costello, 294 F.3d 365, 374 (2d Cir. 2002) (cleaned up). Plaintiff has also pled adequately that she subjectively perceived the comments as hostile or abusive. See, e.g., FAC ¶¶ 92, 105, 120, 133.

Additionally, Plaintiff has adequately alleged that the hostile work environment was created because of Plaintiff’s decision to pump at work. Defendants’ alleged comments are all facially related to her protected status, which differentiates Plaintiff’s case from many others where the lack of connection warranted the dismissal of the alleged hostile work environment claims. See, e.g., Littlejohn, 795 F.3d at 321 (no hostile work environment when supervisor made negative statements about plaintiff, was impatient and used a harsh tone of voice, refused to meet with plaintiff, replaced plaintiff at meetings, wrongly reprimanded plaintiff, increased plaintiff’s workload, and made sarcastic comments); Fleming v. MaxMara USA, Inc., 371 F. App’x 115, 119 (2d Cir. 2010) (no hostile work environment when “defendants wrongly excluded [plaintiff] from meetings, excessively criticized her work, refused to answer work-related questions, arbitrarily imposed duties outside of her responsibilities, threw books, and sent rude emails to her”). Here, all of the purportedly offensive comments were directly related to Plaintiff’s choice to breastfeed and to pump at the office. Accordingly, Plaintiff has pled that the hostile environment was created because of her sex.

Based on this, the court held that plaintiff stated a hostile work environment claim under Title VII of the Civil rights Act of 1964 (as well as under the New York State and City Human Rights Laws).

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