Male Employee (Barely) Survives Dismissal of Hostile Work Environment Claim Under the New York City Human Rights Law

In Carter v. Verizon, decided January 20, 2015, the Southern District of New York dismissed all of plaintiff’s gender and age discrimination claims, except for his gender discrimination / hostile work environment claim under the New York City Human Rights Law (NYCHRL).

After dismissing plaintiff’s federal and state law claims, the court proceeded to assess plaintiff’s claim under the “more expansive” NYCHRL. In sum, his allegations concerned his (mis)treatment by a female supervisor named Kinsey.

In deciding that plaintiff (barely) stated a claim, Judge Failla reasoned:

Reading the Second Amended Complaint liberally, Plaintiff alleges that (i) he was attuned (as a result of prior work experience) to “detecting insensitivity or hostility in others”; (ii) though Plaintiff had always been outnumbered by women in his work experiences, he never felt threatened or intimidated by women until he was supervised by Lowe and Kinsey; (iii) Kinsey observed him “constantly” while supervising him, but her observations “began to take on a bizarre twist as Ms. Kinsey would place her hands on my shoulders and press her breasts against me”; (iv) Kinsey’s behavior was blatant enough to merit comments from co-workers about her attention; (v) separate and apart from her remote or side-by-side “observations” of Plaintiff’s work, Kinsey would walk by and touch Plaintiff’s shoulders while asking, “Do you have some money for me?”; (vi) only after Plaintiff filed an internal complaint at Verizon did the touching stop. To be sure, Plaintiff’s allegations are inartful; there is no indication, for instance, of the number and frequency of these episodes, nor does Plaintiff specifically allege that the touchings took place because of his gender. However, in light of Plaintiff’s prefatory allegations about his training in sexual harassment and the potentially gender-charged physicality of the conduct alleged, the Court understands Plaintiff to be alleging that the repeated touchings to which he was subjected occurred because of his gender. This is barely sufficient, but sufficient, under the NYCHRL for Rule 12(b)(6) purposes. (Emphasis added.)

The court dismissed several of plaintiff’s other claims, however, including his age discrimination and retaliation claims. As to the former, the court held that a supervisor’s statement that she “wanted new blood” did not, in context, give rise to a reasonable inference of age discrimination.

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