Hostile Work Environment Claim Dismissed; Alleged Racial Conduct Was “Episodic”

In Soto v. Marist College, 2019 WL 2371713 (SDNY June 5, 2019), the court, inter alia, dismissed plaintiff’s race-based hostile work environment claim.

From the decision:

Even liberally construed, the conduct alleged here, to the extent it demonstrates racial hostility at all, is “quintessentially episodic.” Harrison v. State Univ. of N.Y. Downstate Med. Ctr., No. 16-CV-1101, 2018 WL 4055278, at *11 (E.D.N.Y. July 6, 2018), adopted by 2018 WL 4054868 (E.D.N.Y. Aug. 24, 2018). Plaintiff alleges that students complained that a Latino teacher was hired to replace a white teacher and that Lawrence subsequently changed Plaintiff’s syllabus, that one other Latino professor was fired for unspecified reasons, and that Plaintiff was told it was “unprofessional” to discuss the lack of diversity at Marist with his class. (Am. Compl. 10–12.) Plaintiff also makes general allegations that he was “being ignored” by human resources after he was told he was not eligible for an employee savings contribution matching program, and that LePre was hostile to him after he refused to change the grades of two of his students after their parents had complained, although neither of these allegations, even afforded a liberal interpretation, can be construed as reflecting racial animus. (Id.) These five isolated episodes, each of which involves entirely different actors, are insufficient to withstand a motion to dismiss.

While the court further noted that alleged “facially neutral incidents … may be included, of course, among the totality of the circumstances that courts consider in any hostile work environment claim, this is only the case so long as a reasonable fact-finder could conclude that they were, in fact, based on Plaintiff’s membership in a protected class.”

Here, plaintiff failed to make that showing; none of the facts pled by plaintiff “could support an inference that the facially neutral incidents he alleges reflect a discriminatory motive.”