Race-Based Hostile Work Environment Claim, Based on Assignment of “Menial Tasks”, Sufficiently Alleged

In Gittens v. Winthrop Hospitalist Associates, P.C. et al, 19-CV-5070, 2022 WL 504490 (E.D.N.Y. Feb. 18, 2022), the court held, inter alia, that plaintiff sufficiently alleged a race-based hostile work environment claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1981 and the New York State Human Rights Law.

Initially, the court held that plaintiff did not state a claim based on the denial of applications for positions in the radiology department, reassignment, docking his pay for lunch breaks he did not take, and an involuntary transfer were “discrete acts that do not form the basis for a hostile work environment claim.”

However, plaintiff’s claim did survive in part. The court explained:

That said, Plaintiff’s allegations that he was required to perform menial tasks outside of his employment role are sufficient to state a claim for hostile work environment. Indeed, courts in this district have now long found that a hostile work environment may exist where a plaintiff was inappropriately assigned menial tasks. See Bowen-Hooks v. City of New York, 13 F. Supp. 3d 179, 237 (E.D.N.Y. 2014) (recognizing same and citing Rodriguez v. City of New York, 644 F.Supp.2d 168, 191 (E.D.N.Y. 2008)). This Court found the same in Watson v. Richmond University Medical Center. See 408 F. Supp. 3d 249, 267 (E.D.N.Y. 2019) (finding the assignment to menial tasks such as taking out the garbage, despite the plaintiff’s qualifications, could support a hostile work environment claim). The Court has already determined that the Plaintiff’s comparators—other radiologic technologists—are sufficiently situated to Plaintiff with respect to allegations of menial tasks. The only other question then is whether the conduct as alleged is sufficiently severe or pervasive.

The court held that, the reasoning of the Watson case – “[b]eing made to perform janitorial services and denied recognition for an earned medical degree could be deemed as constantly humiliating as not returning a salute” – likewise applied here.

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