Race-Based Hostile Work Environment Claims Dismissed; Alleged “Badgering” Insufficient

In Brooks v. Prevention Point, No. 20-06379, 2021 WL 6125205 (E.D.Pa. Dec. 28, 2021), the court, inter alia, dismissed plaintiff’s hostile work environment claim. (The court did, however, hold that plaintiff sufficiently alleged a “disparate treatment” race discrimination claims.)

From the decision:

Courts have dismissed hostile work environment claims where there is single, non-severe incident. In Nuness v. Simon & Schuster, Inc., 221 F. Supp. 3d 596 (D.N.J. 2016), the court granted in relevant part a motion to dismiss, holding that a co-worker’s single use of the racial epithet “niglet” did not rise to a sufficient level of severity or pervasiveness to sufficiently plead racial harassment under the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination.3 Id. at 601–02. Similarly, the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, in Davis v. City of Newark, 285 Fed. App’x, 899, 901–02 (3d Cir. 2008), upheld the dismissal of a hostile work environment claim where the plaintiff was called “a pain in my balls,” had her tires slashed, and was ignored by co-workers who only spoke Spanish in her presence, among other allegations. See also Exantus v. Harbor Bar & Brasserie Rest., 386 Fed. App’x 352, 354 (3d Cir. 2010) (holding that the defendant’s use of the epithet “Haitian fuck” several times did not rise to the level of severe or pervasive).

In light of this precedential background, I find that Plaintiff has not plausibly pled a hostile work environment claim. The single incident of Plaintiff’s manager “badgering” him in front of his coworkers about whether or not he thought she was racist simply cannot be said to constitute the level of severity that one might expect to be extreme enough to amount to a change in the terms and conditions of employment.

The court concluded that while this incident “could be viewed as humiliating, it could not have reasonably interfered with Plaintiff’s work performance or created an objectively hostile or abusive environment.”

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