Disability-Based Hostile Work Environment Claim Dismissed Against Costco

In Armijo v. Costco Wholesale Warehouse, Inc., No. 19-00484-ACK-RT, 2022 WL 1267254 (D.Hawai’i April 28, 2022), the court, inter alia, granted defendant’s motion for summary judgment on plaintiff’s disability-based hostile work environment claim.

The court summarized the pertinent law as follows:

A hostile work environment claim relies on a series of separate acts that collectively are so severe and offensive that they alter the conditions of plaintiff’s employment. Williams v. Modly, 796 Fed. App’x 378, 380-81 (9th Cir. 2020) (citing Morgan, 536 U.S. at 117, 122 S. Ct. at 2061. “Not every insult or harassing comment will constitute a hostile work environment.” Ray v. Henderson, 217 F.3d 1234, 1245 (9th Cir. 2000). The work environment must be both subjectively and objectively perceived as abusive. Campbell, 892 F.3d at 1016-17. A court considers all the circumstances, including “the frequency of the discriminatory conduct; its severity; whether it is physically threatening or humiliating, or a mere offensive utterance; and whether it unreasonably interferes with an employee’s work performance.” Harris v. Forklift Sys., Inc., 510 U.S. 17, 23, 114 S. Ct. 367, 371, 126 L. Ed. 2d 295 (1993). “[T]he required showing of severity or seriousness of the harassing conduct varies inversely with the pervasiveness or frequency of the conduct.”

Applying it to the facts, the court explained:

The information Armijo has provided regarding the alleged hostile work environment is mild and vague at best. Armijo alleges that Costco managers “ridiculed” him for “making a workers’ compensation claim” and “threatened” his continued employment if he did so. 4AC ¶ 32. Specifically, Armijo testified in his deposition that Lockwood asked Armijo to fill out a “bumps and bruises” form to report his workplace injury, Def. Ex. A (Armijo Depo. I) at 50:24-25; Def Ex. D (Armijo Depo. IV) at 381:15-17; a supervisor told Armijo “you’re in the gray area” and “take one for the team, we’re short staffed and people are on vacation,” Def Ex. B (Armijo Depo. II) at 160:6-11; Komura yelled at Armijo for not responding to his radio while he was performing outside security on May 7, 2017, id. at 101:13-102:2; a supervisor loudly asked him “You can’t kneel?” regarding the cleanup of a soda spill at work, id. at 114:11-115:10; Def Ex. C (Armijo Depo. III) at 239:19-240:7; a supervisor asked for his whereabouts while Armijo was in the restroom, Def. Ex. D (Armijo Depo. IV) at 383:1-13; and a co-worker “threw [Armijo] a shoulder and walked into [him];” Def. Ex. B (Armijo Depo. II) at 172:12-173:4.

Even when considering all of the alleged incidents, the acts raised by Armijo were not so serious or pervasive as to alter the conditions of Armijo’s employment. See Jura v. Cty. of Maui, Civ. No. 11-00338 SOM/RLP, 2012 WL 5187845, at *7 (D. Haw. Oct. 17, 2012) (“Title VII is not a general civility code for the American workplace.”) (internal citation and quotation marks omitted); Succar v. Dade Cty. Sch. Bd., 229 F.3d 1343, 1345 (11th Cir. 2000) (stating that “[p]ersonal animosity is not the equivalent of [ ] discrimination,” and that a plaintiff “cannot turn a personal feud into a [ ] discrimination case.”). Indeed, many of the alleged incidents do not appear to be disability-related.

Based on this, the court concluded that there was no genuine issue of material fact as to whether a hostile environment existed, and that defendant’s motion should be granted.

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