Race-Based Hostile Work Environment Claims Dismissed Against Chase Bank

From Wilson v. JPMorgan Chase Bank, N.A., James Dimon, et al, 2021 WL 918770, at *5 (S.D.N.Y., 2021), the court, inter alia, granted defendants’ motion to dismiss plaintiff’s race-based hostile work environment claims asserted under the New York State and City Human Rights Laws.

From the decision:

[Plaintiff’s] NYSHRL hostile work environment claim fails for at least two reasons. First, although she satisfies the subjective prong of the analysis given the mental and physical health effects that she alleges Jarnagin’s mistreatment caused, see ECF No. 63 (“Pl.’s Opp’n”), at 14, the conduct she alleges was not severe or pervasive enough that a reasonable person would have found it hostile or abusive. It may have been inappropriate, offensive, or disrespectful of Jarnagin to order Wilson to bring her lunch, offer Wilson’s administrative services to others without proper authorization, spread false rumors about Wilson to colleagues, and mockingly refer to the stack of folders between their desks as “the Mexican/U.S. wall.” Without more, however, these allegations are not enough to state a hostile work environment claim under the state statute. See, e.g., Fleming v. MaxMara USA, Inc., 371 F. App’x 115, 119 (2d Cir. 2010) (summary order) (holding that allegations that defendants “wrongly excluded [the plaintiff] from meetings, excessively criticized her work, refused to answer work-related questions, arbitrarily imposed duties outside of her responsibilities, threw books, and sent rude emails to her … d[id] not support a finding of a hostile work environment that [wa]s pervasive or severe”); cf. Alfano v. Costello, 294 F.3d 365, 377 (2d Cir. 2002) (noting that “harsh, unjust, and rude” behavior in the workplace, standing alone, is not actionable).

In any event, Wilson’s NYSHRL hostile work environment claim fails for a second reason, which also dooms her corresponding claim under the NYCHRL: because she does not plausibly allege that she was treated poorly “at least in part ‘because of’ ” her race. Mihalik, 715 F.3d at 110 (quoting Williams, 872 N.Y.S.2d at 39 (1st Dep’t 2009)). Wilson does plead that Jarnagin’s treatment of her “was dramatically different than her treatment of the non-African American Executive Administrative Assistants with whom [Jarnagin] worked.” Compl. ¶ 33. But she offers no facts to back up this conclusory assertion. A NYCHRL plaintiff “can raise an inference of a discriminatory motive in a number of ways, including by … pleading specific facts suggesting that other, similarly situated employees outside of the plaintiff’s protected class were treated better than the plaintiff.” Rothbein v. City of New York, No. 18-CV-5106 (VEC), 2019 WL 977878, at *9 (S.D.N.Y. Feb. 28, 2019) (emphasis added). Wilson’s threadbare allegations of disparate treatment do not meet that standard.

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