Teachers’ Age Discrimination / Hostile Work Environment Claims Dismissed

In Lebowitz et al v. New York City Dept. of Education et al, 2020 WL 7024362 (E.D.N.Y. Nov. 30, 2020), the court, inter alia, granted defendants’ motion for summary judgment on plaintiff’s age-based hostile work environment claim.

From the decision:

[Plaintiff] premises her claim largely on comments purportedly made by O’Mahoney and Izzo. According to Reznikov, O’Mahoney referred to the older teachers as being in their “fuck you years” and earning their “fuck you money;” commented that he could have two younger teachers for the price of one older teacher; and told Reznikov “you’ve been in the system long enough and all you managed to do was get a high salary.” (Pls.’ Opp’n 19–20.) With respect to Izzo, Reznikov maintains that Izzo stated that she didn’t need Reznikov’s “stale methods” and directed Reznikov to learn from the younger teachers; referred to the older teachers as “oldies;” told Reznikov to think about retirement; and stated that “there’s always a problem with you older teachers.” (Id.) Defendants dispute that many of these statements were made. Even assuming that they were, they are insufficient to sustain Reznikov’s claim.

No doubt, Reznikov subjectively believes that these comments were severe and/or pervasive. However, when viewed objectively, under the totality of the circumstances, these comments are insufficient evidence to overcome Defendants’ motion. Among other things, none of the comments are threatening nor are they contended to have interfered with Reznikov’s work performance. At bottom, these comments, while perhaps objectionable, amount to mere offensive utterances of the sort consistently rejected as sufficient to sustain a hostile work environment claim.

The court further observed that it was unclear exactly how many times these exchanges occurred, and that assuming each exchange occurred once, seven incidents (over a three-year period) “cannot be deemed pervasive.”

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