Gender-Based Hostile Work Environment Claim Dismissed Against Board of Directors

In Jarusauskaite v. Almod Diamonds, Ltd., No. 154732/2019, 2020 WL 3618936 (N.Y. Sup Ct, New York County June 26, 2020), the court, inter alia, dismissed plaintiff’s gender-based hostile work environment claim against the entity defendant’s Board of Directors, based on the alleged harassment by an individual.

From the decision:

To sustain a hostile work environment claim against officers of a corporate employer under the New York State Human Rights Law or New York City Human Rights Law, plaintiff must show that they created, encouraged, approved, condoned, or acquiesced in an objectively hostile or abusive workplace environment, which altered the conditions of her employment. N.Y. Exec. Law § 296(1); N.Y.C. Admin. Code § 8-107(1)(a) and (13)(b)(1); Zakrzewska v. New School, 14 N.Y.3d 469, 480-81 (2010); Forrest v. Jewish Guild for the Blind, 3 N.Y.3d 295, 310-11 (2004); Doe v. Bloomberg L.P., 178 A.D.3d 44, 45, 48 (1st Dep’t 2019); Clayton v. Best Buy Co., Inc., 48 A.D.3d 277, 277 (1st Dep’t 2008). Plaintiff fails to allege the specific elemental facts that the Board of Directors actively encouraged, approved, or participated or was personally involved in the conduct that created the hostile workplace environment based on her gender or how Gad’s gender based, hostile conduct otherwise was attributable to the Board of Directors. …

Plaintiff does allege that the Board of Directors received reports from Almod Diamonds’ accountant and a law firm after the Board took office in July 2018, and in January 2019 she complained to the Board of Directors about [defendant Morris] Gad’s prior hostile conduct. Yet she alleges neither any ongoing hostile conduct by him after February 2018, nor any workplace environment or conditions of her employment that were affected after her store closed in January 2018. Thus, while she might claim that the Board of Directors condoned or acquiesced in Gad’s prior conduct by not intervening and taking corrective action, by July 2018 there was no workplace environment nor conditions of employment in which to intervene or to correct. See Clayton v. Best Buy Co., Inc., 48 A.D.3d at 277. Plaintiff does not allege that, as a result of the Board of Directors’ inaction in the latter part of 2018 or in 2019, Gad’s hostile conduct continued.

Based on this, the court concluded that defendant’s Board of Directors may not be held responsible for this conduct.

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