Race-Based Hostile Work Environment Claim Survives Dismissal

In Lee v. Independent Mechanical, Inc., No. 160681/2017, 2022 WL 4117326, 2022 N.Y. Slip Op. 33032(U) (N.Y. Sup Ct, New York County Sep. 09, 2022), the court , inter alia, denied defendant’s motion to dismiss plaintiff’s race-based hostile work environment claim.

From the decision:

Even one racial epithet is inexcusable. A racially hostile work environment exists when the workplace is permeated with discriminatory intimidation, ridicule, and insult that is sufficiently severe or pervasive to alter the conditions of the victim’s employment and create an abusive working environment. Defendants argue that Plaintiffs Santos, Lincoln, Ingelton, and Pinto fail to state a cause of action for hostile work environment because they do not allege when Sergei Denko made the racist statements, the statements are “far-fetched,” and they do not rise above “a petty slight or trivial inconvenience.” Defendants also argue that “Lincoln alleges that Mr. Denko repeatedly call him the n-word. [However,] Mr. Lincoln’s race is never identified.”

Plaintiffs, however, do identify the race of Lincoln, in addition to the races of each Plaintiff asserting this cause of action.

Moreover, Plaintiffs’ detailed allegations, accepted as true for the purposes of determining a motion to dismiss, sufficiently state a cause of action for hostile work environment based on race. Further, Plaintiffs do not bear the burden of demonstrating that Defendants’ alleged discrimination rose above the level of “petty slights and trivial inconveniences” at this stage of the litigation, as that constitutes an affirmative defense to be pled in Defendants’ answer.

[Cleaned up.]

The court also rejected defendant’s argument that the claim is time-barred by a three-year statute of limitations, citing the continuing violations doctrine.

Share This: