Hostile Work Environment Claim Dismissed; Limited Interactions With Alleged HWE Creator

In Joyce v. Remark Holdings, Inc. et al, 2022 WL 179839 (S.D.N.Y. Jan. 20, 2022), the court, inter alia, dismissed plaintiff’s hostile work environment claim asserted under the New York City Human Rights Law.

From the decision:

Joyce points to three specific instances to argue that Tao created a hostile work environment. First, when Joyce spoke to Tao about the Director’s sexual assault of the Model, Tao laughed and said that sounded like the Director. Second, Tao told Joyce that he considered the Director a friend and had not brought him “girls.” And third, Joyce claims that Tao forced her to take a mixed drink at a company event in a nightclub.

These incidents cannot sustain a hostile work environment claim under the NYCHRL. Although Joyce may have preferred that Tao more actively address allegations of the Director’s sexual misconduct, Tao’s refusal do to so does not constitute unlawful discrimination against Joyce and did not create a hostile work environment for Joyce. Joyce worked remotely, and the Director had no involvement in her work. Courts interpreting the NYCHRL have generally refused to hold individual defendants liable for creating a hostile work environment unless the evidence shows that the claim “relates directly to the conduct and behavior of the individual.” Baez v. Anne Fontaine USA, Inc., 2017 WL 57858, at *5 (S.D.N.Y. Jan. 5, 2017) (citation omitted); see also Dillon v. Ned Mgmt., 85 F. Supp. 3d 639, 658 (E.D.N.Y. 2015).

Similarly, the single incident in which Tao forced Joyce to take a mixed drink does not give rise to a hostile work environment. Joyce has not provided any evidence that Tao specifically or disproportionately pressured female employees to consume alcohol. Joyce therefore has not shown that, during this incident, she was treated “less well … because of her gender.” Mihalik, 715 F.3d at 110. And, again, Joyce worked from her home and Tao had no role in supervising her work.

The court also dismissed plaintiff’s NYCHRL “aiding and abetting” and retaliation claims.

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