Hostile Work Environment Claim Dismissed; “Rude”, “Mean” Actions Insufficient

In Olin v. Rochester City School District, 2022 WL 967707 (W.D.N.Y. March 31, 2022), the court, inter alia, dismissed plaintiff’s gender-based hostile work environment claim asserted under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the New York State Human Rights Law.

This decision illustrates that a work environment that might be considered “hostile” according to the ordinary meaning of that word is not necessarily a “hostile work environment” in violation of the anti-discrimination laws.

The court wrote:

Plaintiff alleges that Trippe raised his voice to her on multiple occasions, caused her to be orally reprimanded in 2015, assigned her jobs that were more isolating and less desirable than the tasks assigned to male coworkers, micromanaged her work, denied her training opportunities with respect to school surveillance cameras, refused to discuss issues about which plaintiff needed clarification, was hypercritical of plaintiff’s performance, and rendered performance evaluations that found plaintiff’s performance “below average” without any explanation or guidance to help plaintiff improve.

Giving plaintiff the benefit of every favorable inference, such allegations are insufficiently severe and/or pervasive to establish an alteration of the terms and conditions of plaintiff’s employment, or to create an abusive working environment due to plaintiff’s gender. See Littlejohn v. City of New York, 795 F.3d 297, 321 (2d Cir. 2015)(allegations that plaintiff was subjected to negative statements made in “harsh tones,” wrongful reprimands, increased reporting requirements and being left out of meetings, are insufficient to support a finding of hostile work environment); Davis-Molinia v. Port Auth. of N.Y. & N.J., 2011 WL 4000997, 2011 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 93868 (S.D.N.Y. 2011)(diminished job responsibilities, exclusion from meetings, being yelled at or talked down to, and increased workload of menial tasks, does not comprise conduct sufficiently severe or pervasive to constitute a hostile work environment), aff’d, 488 F. App’x 530 (2d Cir. 2012); Morrison v. Potter, 363 F. Supp. 2d 586, 591 (S.D.N.Y. 2005)(reprimands and “close monitoring may cause an employee embarrassment or anxiety, [but] such intangible consequences are not materially adverse alterations of employment conditions”).

Although plaintiff alleges that Trippe’s tone was inappropriately “mean” and that he routinely subjected her work to unfair scrutiny and criticism, “many bosses are harsh, unjust and rude,” Alfano v. Costello, 294 F.3d 365, 377 (2d Cir. 2002), and “excessive criticism and rudeness do not constitute a hostile work environment.” Ramirez v. Temin & Co., 2021 WL 4392303 at *8, 2021 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 183760 at *23 (S.D.N.Y. 2021)(citing Perry v. Ethan Allen, Inc., 115 F.3d 143, 149 (2d Cir. 1997)). Here, plaintiff does not identify any sexist or disparaging remarks, threats, physical interactions, or other egregious conduct by District officials, the individual defendants, or coworkers within her department.

The court concluded that the alleged incidents were “not, as a whole, sufficiently severe or pervasive to give rise to a hostile work environment within the meaning of Title VII and the NYHRL” and, accordingly, dismissed plaintiff’s hostile work environment claim.

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