Hostile Work Environment Claim Dismissed; Denial of Time Off and a Negative Evaluation Insufficient

In Payne v. Cornell University, 2021 WL 39684 (N.D.N.Y. Jan. 5, 2021), the court, inter alia, dismissed plaintiff’s hostile work environment claim.

The court explained:

[E]ven if Plaintiff had properly supported her claims, the Court would find that the complained-of conduct is not sufficiently severe or pervasive to alter the conditions of Plaintiff’s employment. Courts within this circuit have found that claims of the denial of time off and a negative evaluation are insufficient to state a hostile work environment claim. See Davis-Molina v. Port Auth. of N.Y. and N.J., 08-CV-7584, 2011 WL 4000997, at *11 (S.D.N.Y. Aug. 19, 2011) (explaining that the two month period where the plaintiff was allegedly denied time off, told he would never be able to take a vacation, excluded from important meetings, had several job responsibilities stripped from him, and yelled in front of coworkers did not rise to a hostile work environment because the claims were rooted in conduct amounting to nothing more than workplace dynamics); St. Louis v. New York City Health and Hosp. Corp., 682 F. Supp. 2d, 216, 234 (EEN.Y. 2010) (“Plaintiff’s receipt of negative job evaluations and disciplinary warnings resulting from the failure to meet a work requirement, without more, do not support a claim of … hostile work environment..”) In this case, like Davis-Molina, Plaintiff’s isolated disputes reflect the traditional workplace dynamics between a supervisor and an employee who had missed a significant amount of work. Hostile work environment claims “are meant to protect individuals from abuse and trauma that is severe” and “are not intended to promote or enforce civility, gentility, or even decency.” Curtis, 46 F. Supp.2d at 213-14.

The court concluded that “[e]ven considering the events in totality, including the open challenge to Plaintiff’s accommodations, she has not demonstrated sufficiently pervasive or severe conduct to create a hostile work environment.”

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