Plaintiff Entitled to Default Judgment on Hostile Work Environment Claims; Allegations Included Mocking of Visual and Hearing Impairments

In Brito et al v. Marina’s Bakery Corp. et al, 19-CV-00828, 2022 WL 875099 (E.D.N.Y. March 24, 2022), the court, inter alia, granted plaintiff’s motion for a default judgment on his hostile work environment claims asserted under the New York State and City Human Rights Laws.

After summarizing the black-letter law as to those claims, the court explained:

Mr. Brito has alleged a sufficient hostile work environment claim under both New York State and City statutes. Mr. Brito alleged that during his employment, Individual Defendants M. Gonzalez and S. Gonzalez openly taunted and mocked him for his visual impairment and for his use of a hearing aid. (See Compl. ¶ 104; see also Brito Decl. ¶¶ 35-43.) On multiple occasions, the Individual Defendants questioned Mr. Brito’s ability to perform work or maintain employment because of his disabilities or “deficiencies.” (See Compl. ¶¶ 106, 108; see also Brito Decl. ¶ 37.) On several occasions, M. Gonzalez and S. Gonzalez maliciously shouted into Mr. Brito’s ear to ridicule his hearing impairment. (See Compl. ¶ 105; see also Brito Decl. ¶ 39.) Numerous times, the Individual Defendant directed verbal taunts at Mr. Brito and claimed he would never do anything about it because “no other employer would ever hire him because of his disabilities.” (See Compl. ¶ 106; Brito Decl. ¶ 40.) Defendants engaged in this discriminatory, humiliating, and hostile behavior throughout the duration of Mr. Brito’s employment, and escalated their abuse during the last several months of his employment until it became “unbearable.” (See Compl. ¶ 102-103; see also Brito Decl. ¶¶ 35-40.) Defendants did not subject other Bakers or Helpers without disabilities to the outright verbal abuse and bullying that Mr. Brito was subjected to. (See Compl. ¶ 99; see Brito Decl. ¶ 41.) When Mr. Brito finally complained about the Defendants’ unlawful practices, Defendants immediately terminated his employment. (See Compl. ¶¶ 109-10; see also Brito Decl. ¶¶ 43-48.)

Mr. Brito has identified, through a series of problematic and abusive instances, a pattern of cruel mistreatment at the hands of the Defendant-employers. The mistreatment that Mr. Brito alleges was persistent, severe, “physically threatening” and “humiliating,” and “unreasonably interfere[d]” with Mr. Brito’s work. See Harris, 510 U.S. at 23. Mr. Brito has also sufficiently alleged that he was treated poorly by Defendant-employers due to his disabilities, and therefore, has pleaded that he was “treated less well than other employees because of his protected class.” Forgione, 2012 WL 4049832, at *7. Accordingly, Mr. Brito has sufficiently stated hostile work environment claims against Defendants under the NYSHRL and NYCHRL. See Fox v. Costco Wholesale Corp., 918 F.3d 65, 75 (2d Cir. 2019) (plaintiff’s hostile work environment claim was sufficient where plaintiff established that plaintiff’s co-workers mocked him for months, by identifying specific comments and instances of mockery that were sufficiently severe and pervasive); Salas v. N.Y.C. Dep’t of Investigation, 298 F. Supp. 3d 676, 684-85 (S.D.N.Y. 2018) (plaintiff sufficiently alleged a hostile work environment claim where defendants derided plaintiff’s stutter, imitated her, and publicly intimidated her).

The court further held the plaintiff sufficiently alleged failure-to-accommodate-disability claims under the NYSHRL and NYCHRL.

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