Race-Based Hostile Work Environment Claims Dismissed; Conduct Was Merely “Mildly Offensive”

In Parsons v. JPMorgan Chase Bank, N.A., 16-CV-0408, 2018 WL 4861379 (E.D.N.Y. Sept. 30, 2018), the court, inter alia, granted defendant’s motion for summary judgment on plaintiff’s race-based hostile work environment claims.

Plaintiff alleged, for example, that she witnessed one person make disparaging comments about African-American employees’ hair and dress, and “listened to her direct supervisor cry about” alleged racist conduct.

She asserted her claims under Title VII, the ADEA, the NYS Human Rights Law, and the New York City Human Rights Law.

With respect to her federal and state law claims, which are analyzed under the same standard, the court explained:

Assessing “the totality of the circumstances,” Gorzynski, 596 F.3d at 102, the court finds that Plaintiff cannot establish a hostile-environment claim. First, the events Plaintiff sets out were not sufficiently severe or pervasive to support her claim. While the allegations may have been upsetting to Plaintiff, no single incident comes close to having been “extraordinarily severe,” see Alfano, 294 F.3d at 374. Second, the incidents Plaintiff describes were not “continuous and concerted,” nor did they “alter[ ] the conditions of her working environment.” See id. The conduct was not facially discriminatory or excessive; rather, the record indicates “only limited [and] infrequent” conduct that could, at worst, be described as “mildly offensive” and that cannot support Plaintiff’s hostile-environment claim. See Cristofaro v. Lake Shore Cent. Sch. Dist., 473 F. App’x 28, 30 (2d Cir. 2012) (summary order). Moreover, even the Plaintiff admits that Mumcuoglu’s offensive conduct was directed at everyone, rather than the Plaintiff in particular or individuals in the plaintiff’s protected class. …

The Court also concludes that Plaintiff has not established that any of these actions occurred on account of a protected status. Plaintiff does not explain which evidence she offers as proof of mistreatment “on account of” her particular protected classes.

Plaintiff’s claim also failed under the comparatively broader New York City Human Rights Law, which does not require a plaintiff to demonstrate that the treatment was “severe or pervasive”, but only that they have been “treated less well than other employees because of” a protected characteristic. Nevertheless, the court explained, the NYCHRL is “not a general civility code,” and the conduct alleged by plaintiff did not rise above the level of “petty slights and trivial inconveniences.”