Hostile Work Environment Claim Dismissed; Alleged Isolation, Hostile Comments and “Attitudes” (Etc.) Insufficient

In Corso v. New York State Dept. of Corrections & Community Supervision, 2019 WL 2869573 (NDNY July 3, 2019), the court, inter alia, granted defendant’s motion for summary judgment on plaintiff’s hostile work environment claim under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

From the decision:

Title VII does not impose “a general civility code for the American workplace.” Oncale v. Sundowner Offshore Servs., Inc., 523 U.S. 75, 81 (1998). “[S]imple teasing, offhand comments, and isolated incidents (unless extremely serious) will not amount to discriminatory changes in the terms and conditions of employment.” Faragher v. City of Boca Raton, 524 U.S. 775, 788 (1998) (citation and internal quotation marks omitted). “Conduct that is merely offensive, unprofessional, or childish cannot support a hostile work environment claim.” Payton v. City Univ. of N.Y., 453 F. Supp. 2d 775, 785 (S.D.N.Y. 2006) (internal quotation marks omitted); accord Zucco v. Auto Zone, Inc., 800 F. Supp. 2d 473, 476 (W.D.N.Y. 2011) (noting that “sporadic, isolated incidents of boorish or offensive use of language are insufficient to establish a hostile work environment” (internal quotation marks omitted)). Further, “[i]ncidents that are few in number and that occur over a short period of time may fail to demonstrate a hostile work environment.” Whidbee, 223 F.3d at 69 (internal quotation marks omitted).

On the present record, even viewed in the light most favorable to Plaintiff, she has failed to identify any sufficiently severe or pervasive misconduct, such as “discriminatory intimidation, ridicule, and insult,” Alfano, 294 F.3d at 373, that altered her terms and conditions of employment. She complains that, during her one-and-a-half-day stint in the draft unit, draft officers ignored her, isolated her, and failed to instruct her on her job duties. (Dkt. No. 40, at 29). But that short-lived experience does not rise to the level of harassment actionable under Title VII. See, e.g., Campbell v. Nat’l Fuel Gas Distribution Corp., No. 13-cv-00438, 2016 WL 8929078, at *9–10, 2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 98344, at *30–31 (W.D.N.Y. July 26, 2016) (ruling that the plaintiff’s complaint of being “ignored” every day and given the “cold shoulder treatment” is not sufficiently severe or pervasive to establish a hostile work environment claim), report-recommendation adopted, 252 F. Supp. 3d 205 (W.D.N.Y. 2017); Costello v. N.Y. State Nurses Ass’n, 783 F. Supp. 2d 656, 680 (S.D.N.Y. 2011) (holding that the incidents complained of, including being “openly ignored” in meetings, were “not sufficiently pervasive or continuous as to alter the conditions of [the plaintiff’s] employment”). For the same reason, Plaintiff’s argument that she felt “isolated” and “uncomfortable” when she was assigned to draft on subsequent occasions—a contention that notably lacks specificity—fails to satisfy the requisite standard.

Plaintiff also notes that she was the target of hostile comments and “attitudes.” (Dkt. No. 40, at 26, 29, 31–32). She recounts three instances in particular: one when she was “denigrated by being told she ‘has two fucking legs’ which she should use to escort inmates; another when officers disparaged her choice of the wrong table; and a third when inmates reported to her that male officers were making “nasty” comments about her. (Id.). Even if the Court infers, based on context, that the comments were gender related, they are but isolated remarks spanning less than a day and a half, and, although unfriendly, they cannot reasonably be deemed to be “extraordinarily severe.”

The court concluded that plaintiff failed to raise a genuine issue of fact as to the existence of an objectively hostile work environment, and therefore dismissed that claim.