Gender and National Origin-Based Hostile Work Environment Claims Continue Against Saudi Arabian Airlines

In Akhtar v. Saudia d/b/a Saudi Arabian Airlines Corp., 2021 WL 1758807 (S.D.N.Y. May 4, 2021), the court held, inter alia, that plaintiff sufficiently alleged national origin and gender-based hostile work environment claims under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the New York State and City Human Rights Laws.

As to plaintiff’s Title VII claim, the court explained:

Plaintiff alleges that, after Al Subaiy became her supervisor in 2011, he regularly insulted her, excluded her from meetings and business conversations, belittled her in front of customers and colleagues, refused her trainings offered to employees that were junior to her, ordered her to complete menial tasks outside of her work duties, and deprived her of high-level tasks. After Plaintiff filed her First EEOC Charge in 2014, Al Subaiy allegedly continued his mistreatment of her; incentivized her supervisors and colleagues to retaliate against her; informed Al Ghamdi, his successor, about Plaintiff’s First EEOC Charge, thereby encouraging Al Ghamdi’s mistreatment of Plaintiff; and engineered a work environment in which Plaintiff was consistently humiliated, excluded from meetings, and mistreated by her colleagues. Plaintiff alleges that such discriminatory acts were directed toward her because she was a Pakistani female, and that male or non-Pakistani workers were not treated similarly. Moreover, she asserts that the discrimination, retaliation and hostile work environment she endured up until her termination was primarily a result of Al Subaiy’s unlawful behavior directed toward her and his encouragement of others to treat Plaintiff similarly.

The unlawful behavior Plaintiff alleges not only demonstrates plausibly the existence of a workplace permeated with discriminatory intimidation, ridicule, and insult that is severe and pervasive enough to create an abusive working environment, but comprises numerous incidents sufficiently connected to each other, including by way of a common instigator, to rise to the level of a hostile work environment that persisted for six years. Importantly, Plaintiff’s allegation that the pattern of discrimination and retaliation that comprised the abusive work environment she described in detail as occurring between 2011 and December 2016 “continued” beyond December 2016, including an incident of ridicule occurring on June 5, 2017, plausibly demonstrates that the qualifying unlawful conduct continued to occur up until her termination in 2017. Therefore, Plaintiff’s allegations concerning the discriminatory harassment, ridicule and insult she faced are sufficient at this stage to state a claim for a single unlawful employment action that commenced in 2011 and continued up until her termination in July 2017, to the extent such acts do not qualify as individual, discrete acts of discrimination that are otherwise time-barred. [Citation and internal quotation marks omitted.]

Based on this, the court found that plaintiff plausibly stated a timely Title VII hostile work environment, and denied defendant’s motion to dismiss.

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