Guidance Counselor’s Discrimination, Sexual Harassment Claims Dismissed

In Fox v. New York City Dep’t of Educ., No. 13-CV-3204 VEC, 2015 WL 4991878 (S.D.N.Y. Aug. 20, 2015), the court dismissed claims asserted by plaintiff – a former guidance counselor at P.S. 150 – of religious discrimination, race discrimination, age discrimination, hostile work environment, and sexual harassment.

As to plaintiff’s religious discrimination claim, the court held:

[Plaintiff] Fox attempts to shoehorn one of his many disputes with [principal Pamela] Bradley—specifically, Bradley’s ire over his failure, while suspended, to provide requested information regarding a student’s ACS caseworker during an emergency-into a religious dispute. … There is no evidence, and Fox does not allege, that Bradley’s reason for asking him the name of the student’s ACS caseworker was related to Fox’s religion, or that Bradley’s irritation when Fox did not comply was the product of a religious animus. In any event, this lone example, coming after more than a year of disagreements between Fox and the Principal, does not support an inference that Fox’s suspension or termination was motivated by discrimination; it simply underscores the broken relationship between Fox and Bradley. Similarly, Fox’s description of Bradley’s request that Fox wash cafeteria tables, featuring, in Fox’s retelling, an incomprehensible analogy to Jesus’s washing the feet of the apostles, does not suggest that the BOE’s decision to suspend and terminate Fox was motivated by religious animosity.

Plaintiff’s religion-based hostile work environment claim likewise failed, since “Bradley’s invocation of the image of Christ washing the apostles’ feet when directing Fox to wash the cafeteria tables is precisely the sort of “episodic” or “isolated” act that does not meet the standard of severity or pervasiveness necessary to support a federal hostile work environment claim.”

As to plaintiff’s sexual harassment claim, the court explained:

Fox’s sexual harassment claim is predicated on the fact that Bradley “not once but twice said, I like to hear your sexy voice on the loud speaker.” Bradley never touched Fox inappropriately, but when the staff had occasion to dress less casually, “she would say flirtatious things, like, you look really good, look at Mr. Fox, that kind of thing.” Even if we assume that Bradley’s comments were offensive, “they appear to have been isolated and were not as substantial” as is necessary to state a sexual harassment claim. Accordingly, Defendant would be entitled to summary judgment on any such claim that could be derived from Fox’s Amended Complaint.

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