Gender-Based Hostile Work Environment Claim Stated; Allegations Included Use of “Gender-Based Slurs”

In Benedetto v. New York State Office of Children and Family Services, 2020 WL 4049945 (N.D.N.Y. July 20, 2020), the court, inter alia, denied defendant’s motion to dismiss plaintiff’s gender-based hostile work environment claim under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the New York State Human Rights Law.

From the decision:

Defendant argues that Plaintiff has not alleged sufficiently severe or pervasive harassment to survive a motion to dismiss. Def.’s Mem. at 11–12. The Court disagrees. It seems clear that the confrontation with Haas has altered Plaintiff’s employment for the worse. Plaintiff was confronted by Haas and verbally attacked with gender-based slurs while being watched by her superiors. Compl. ¶¶ 18, 22, 30. After this occurred, Plaintiff filed a Workplace Violence Report Form. Id. ¶ 32. Rather than fire Haas, Defendant only issued her a “counseling memo.” Id. ¶ 46; NYSDHR Determination at 4. While the initial interaction between Haas and Plaintiff may not have been severe enough to plead a hostile work environment claim, see Kotcher v. Rosa and Sullivan Appliance Ctr., Inc., 957 F.2d 59, 62 (2d Cir. 1992) (noting that isolated acts of harassment do not warrant Title VII relief), Defendant’s follow-up response pushes Plaintiff’s allegation into the realm of the plausible. In particular, because Defendant assigned Plaintiff to shifts in which she worked under Haas, Plaintiff has adequately pled that she was subjected to a hostile work environment. See Lent v. CCNH, Inc., No. 13-CV-942, 2015 WL 3463433, at *13 (N.D.N.Y. Jun. 1, 2015) (stating that working on the same shift as one’s harasser “go[es] far beyond merely offensive conduct and [is] sufficient for a reasonable person to find her work environment abusive and hostile in violation of Title VII”).

There are sufficient facts in the Complaint to state a gender-based hostile work environment claim based on Plaintiff’s allegations that she was verbally attacked by Haas and then given “less-desirable shifts and shifts during which she [was] forced to have Haas as her supervisor.” Compl. ¶¶ 18, 44; see Erno, 2020 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 91258, at *25–26. As a result, the Court denies Defendant’s motion to dismiss Plaintiff’s Title VII and NYSHRL hostile work environment claims.

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