Sex-Based Hostile Work Environment Claim Dismissed Against MABSTOA

In White v. Manhattan and Bronx Surface Transit Operating Authority et al, 18 Civ. 3627 (GBD), 2022 WL 4227289 (S.D.N.Y. Sept. 13, 2022), the court, inter alia, granted defendants’ motion for summary judgment on plaintiff’s sex-based hostile work environment claim.

Applying the law, the court held:

After reviewing the entire record and assessing the facts in the light most favorable to Plaintiff, this Court concludes that Plaintiff has not put forth any evidence of any conduct that would rise to the level required to sustain a hostile work environment claim. At most, Plaintiff has established an environment that involved sporadic, chance encounters with Austin during which time Austin “turned to her and made menacing faces and postures.” Plaintiff cites four incidents in support of her claim, none of which suffice to establish a hostile work environment. First, Plaintiff alleges, but offers no evidence to support, that Austin stalked her and repeatedly phoned her in 2012 and 2013. (Id. at 18.) Allegations do not suffice on summary judgment, and in any event, this conduct is unrelated to Plaintiff’s employment and time-barred. Next, Plaintiff points to the Kisses Moreno incident, (id.), which the undisputed evidence shows did not happen. Third, Plaintiff cites the January 2014 encounter with Austin in which Austin arrived at the depot at which Plaintiff was attending mandatory sexual harassment training. It is undisputed that Austin did not speak to Plaintiff at that time, and the record presents conflicting testimony as to whether Austin entered the room. According to Plaintiff, Austin gave her an “attitude.” Finally, Plaintiff complains that, in 2012, MaBSTOA’s Head of Labor Relations, Hillary Tomlinson, coerced Plaintiff into signing a stipulation to settle an employee disciplinary proceeding brought against Plaintiff for fabricating the Kisses Moreno incident. Even if this Court accepts Plaintiff’s unsupported version of events with respect to these incidents and ignores that each is time-barred, this conduct falls far short of establishing a workplace “severely permeated with discriminatory intimidation, ridicule, and insult.” Nor do these actions appear to have any connection to Plaintiff’s gender or any other protected characteristic. Accordingly, Plaintiff has failed to establish a triable issue of material fact to support her claim of a pervasive and continuous atmosphere of gender discrimination. [Cleaned up.]

The court additionally held that, even if Plaintiff’s allegations were supported by the factual record and sufficiently severe and pervasive enough to establish a hostile work environment claim, they are time-barred. It rejected plaintiff’s attempt to rely on the “continuing violation”  doctrine – which requires a plaintiff to “point to at least one timely act that is sufficiently related to acts preceding the limitations period” – since there was neither any evidence, let alone an allegation, “that any act of harassment occurred after” March 27, 2014 (the date three years before plaintiff filed her complaint).

Accordingly, given the lack of any “evidence to suggest that the circumstances of Plaintiff’s work environment were so objectively threatening or harassing as to have adversely altered her working conditions” the court concluded that a reasonable jury could not find that defendants subjected plaintiff to a hostile work envioronment, and accordingly granted defendant’s motion.

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