Hostile Work Environment Claim Dismissed; Belittling, Shouting, Demeaning etc. Conduct Amounted to “Minor Annoyances”

In Appleton v City of New York, No. 157849/2017, 2019 WL 1206347, at *8 (N.Y. Sup Ct, New York County Mar. 14, 2019), the court, inter alia, dismissed plaintiff’s hostile work environment claim for failure to state a claim.

The court summarized the relevant law:

With respect to plaintiff’s hostile work environment claims, “[i]n order to prevail on a hostile work environment claim, a plaintiff must make two showings: (1) that ‘the harassment was sufficiently severe or pervasive to alter the conditions of the victim’s employment and create an abusive working environment’; and (2) that there is a ‘specific basis for imputing the conduct creating the hostile work environment to the employer’ ” (Duch v Jakubek, 588 F3d 757, 762 [2d Cir 2009] [quoting Feingold v New York, 366 F3d 138, 149-50 [2d Cir 2004]). A hostile work environment claim contains both an objective and subjective component. “[T]he misconduct shown must be ‘severe or pervasive enough to create an objectively hostile or abusive work environment,’ and the victim must also subjectively perceive that environment to be abusive’ ” (Alfano v Costello, 294 F3d 365, 374 [2d Cir 2002] quoting Harris v Forklift Sys., Inc., 510 US 17, 21 [1993]). “As a general rule, incidents must be more than ‘episodic; they must be sufficiently continuous and concerted in order to be deemed pervasive’ ” (id. quoting Perry v Ethan Allen, Inc., 115 F3d 143, 149 [2d Cir 1997]).

“Isolated acts, unless very serious, do not meet the threshold of severity or pervasiveness” (Alfano, 294 F3d at 374). Therefore, a plaintiff must demonstrate either that a single incident was extraordinarily severe, or that a series of incidents were “sufficiently continuous and concerted’ to have altered the conditions of her working environment” (Perry 115 F3d at 149). “To decide whether the threshold has been reached, courts examine the case-specific circumstances in their totality and evaluate the severity, frequency, and degree of the abuse” (Alfano, 294 F3d at 374; see also Harris 510 US at 23 [noting relevant factors to a hostile work environment determination to be “frequency of the discriminatory conduct; its severity; whether it is physically threatening or humiliating, or a mere offensive utterance; and whether it unreasonably interferes with an employee’s work performance”]).

Applying the law, the court concluded:

Plaintiff’s hostile work environment claims must also be dismissed. Again, plaintiff fails to support her claims with any facts relating to her being in a protected class regarding her age or race. The grievances alleged by plaintiff, that defendants belittled her, shouted at her, and demeaned her in front of her peers; and discussed her retirement, were minor annoyances and not adverse employment actions pursuant to the NYSHR and NYCHRL. Notably, the only factual allegations to support these contentions is that Katz spoke to her in a condescending manner, that Katz disagreed with her during meetings, and that Falzone treated her as a subordinate. These allegations, while offensive, are not of sufficient severity or such a continuous pattern to create a hostile work environment.

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