Hostile Work Environment Sexual Harassment Claim, Based on Off-Premises Conduct by Co-Workers, Dismissed

In Henry v. Ground, No. 153458/2021, 2022 WL 2158368 (N.Y. Sup Ct, New York County June 10, 2022), the court, inter alia, dismissed plaintiff’s hostile work environment sexual harassment claim asserted under the New York State and City Human Rights Laws.

Plaintiff bases her claim on two incidents (one in July 2018, the other in April 2019) at which she alleges she was subjected to unwelcome sexual advances, comments, etc. at off-work-premises events, by non-employees of the defendant employer.

From the decision:

The hostile work environment test has both objective and subjective elements (see Raspardo v Carlone, 770 F3d 97, 114 [2d Cir 2014] [“the conduct complained of must be severe or pervasive enough that a reasonable person would find it hostile or abusive, and the victim must subjectively perceive the work environment to be abusive”]; see also Terry, 336 F3d at 148 [“a plaintiff must allege facts showing that she was faced with harassment “ ‘of such quality or quantity that a reasonable employee would find the conditions of her employment altered for the worse’ ”] [citation omitted; italics in original]). “[T]he claim will not succeed if the offending actions are no more than petty slights or trivial inconveniences” (Franco v Hyatt Corp., 189 AD3d 569, 570 [1st Dept 2020]). As such, the pleadings must give rise to an inference of at least partial discriminatory or retaliatory motives (Sutter v Dibello, 2019 WL 4195303 at * 23, 2019 US Dist LEXIS 136665 [ED NY 2019]).

Plaintiff describes two isolated incidents that occurred outside the office at work events, where she was allegedly harassed by two different men, neither of whom supervised her, or were even themselves employees of RG. Moreover, plaintiff never saw either man again, as the isolated incidents did not occur at the office, or in the context of her everyday employment. As such, even if plaintiff subjectively perceived this conduct to be unpleasant, it could not have objectively altered the conditions of her working environment.

Based on this, the court concluded that “these allegations are insufficient to constitute actionable conduct under the NYSHRL at the time it occurred.”

Share This: