Hostile Work Environment Claim Dismissed; Conduct, Including “Sarcastic” and “Belittling” Remarks, Was Sporadic

In Tuan v. Flatrate Moving Network LLC, 2020 WL 4606318 (SDNY August 11, 2020), the court, inter alia, dismissed plaintiff’s hostile work environment claim asserted under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

The court summarized the law as follows:

To establish a hostile work environment under Title VII … a plaintiff must show that the workplace is permeated with discriminatory intimidation, ridicule, and insult that is sufficiently severe or pervasive to alter the conditions of the victim’s employment and create an abusive working environment. Littlejohn v. City of New York, 795 F.3d 297, 320-21 (2d Cir. 2015). This standard has both objective and subjective components: the conduct complained of must be severe or pervasive enough that a reasonable person would find it hostile or abusive, and the victim must subjectively perceive the work environment to be abusive. The incidents complained of must be more than episodic; they must be sufficiently continuous and concerted in order to be deemed pervasive. In determining whether a plaintiff suffered a hostile work environment, we must consider the totality of the circumstances, including the 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. [Internal quotation marks omitted; paragraphing altered.]

Applying the law, the court explained:

During the eight-day period of employment in 2017, the Complaint alleges that “some” of Plaintiff’s co-workers called him “Chino” and that others, including his supervisors, said his name with a “sarcastic” or “belittling” tone. The Complaint also alleges sporadic undesirable work assignments, as well as assignments to teams and team members that were not his preference. These allegations are insufficient to find that the “workplace is permeated with discriminatory intimidation, ridicule, and insult.” Id. at 320-21. The alleged conduct was sporadic rather than consistent, was not “physically threatening or humiliating” and did not “unreasonably interfere[ ]” with Plaintiff’s work performance. Id. Accordingly, the Title VII hostile work environment is dismissed. See id. (affirming dismissal of hostile work environment claim where employer made negative statements about plaintiff, was impatient and used harsh tones with plaintiff, distanced herself and declined to meet with plaintiff, required plaintiff to recreate work, wrongfully reprimanded plaintiff, increased plaintiff’s schedule, and was sarcastic to plaintiff); Aulicino v. New York City Dep’t of Homeless Servs., 580 F.3d 73, 83 (2d Cir. 2009) (“For racist comments, slurs, and jokes to constitute a hostile work environment, however, there must be more than a few isolated incidents of racial enmity.” (quotation marks omitted)); Martin, 2018 WL 6510805, at *12 (observing that “isolated and sporadic incidents” are “generally insufficient to establish a hostile work environment claim.”). [Citations omitted.]

Having dismissed plaintiff’s federal law (Title VII) claim, the court declined to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over plaintiff’s non-federal claims (specifically, those alleging discrimination in violation of the New York State and City Laws and the failure to pay accrued vacation time in violation of New York Labor Law § 198-c(1)).

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