Race-Based Hostile Work Environment Claim Against Upstate Community College Dismissed

In Cain v. North Country Community College et al, 2020 WL 7230722 (N.D.N.Y. Dec. 8, 2020), the court, inter alia, dismissed plaintiff’s race-based hostile work environment claim asserted under 42 U.S.C. § 1983.

In sum, plaintiff – an African American female adjunct professor – claimed that she was passed over for a promotion by two white males and falsely accused of being under the influence of alcohol at work, due to her race. She asserts claims of “adverse action” discrimination, retaliation, and hostile work environment.

The court dismissed all of her claims. As to her hostile work environment claim, the court explained:

To establish a § 1983 hostile work environment claim, “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, 795 F.3d at 320-21 (internal quotation marks and citation omitted). The workplace environment must be objectively “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.” Raspardo v. Carlone, 770 F.3d 97, 114 (2d Cir. 2014) (citations omitted). And, when asserting a claim for hostile work environment based on discriminatory animus, a plaintiff must also “adequately plead a causal connection between his protected status and the alleged hostile work environment.” Trujillo v. City of New York, No. 14 Civ. 8501, 2016 WL 10703308, at *14 (S.D.N.Y. Mar. 29, 2016), aff’d, 696 F. App’x 560 (2d Cir. 2017) (citations omitted).

Cain has failed to state a claim for a hostile work environment. She argues that she has raised a plausible inference of a hostile work environment for the following reasons: there was “more favorable treatment of employees not in the protected group, coupled with the circumstances surrounding [her] suspension”; there were “false allegations made against [her] on two different occasions”; her “altercation” with Barber was of a “threatening nature”; defendants “fail[ed] to investigate”; and there were “false statements made to Unemployment after her separation from employment.” (Pl.’s Mem. of Law at 14.) However, a review of the complaint reveals only vague and conclusory allegations that fail to support a plausible inference of a hostile work environment. See Trujillo, 2016 WL 10703308, at *14 (“[B]ald statements—without any supporting facts—are too conclusory to permit an inference of discriminatory animus.” (citations omitted)).

Having dismissed all of plaintiff’s federal claims, the court declined to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over plaintiff’s state law (New York State Human Rights Law) claim.

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