Catholic’s Religion-Based Hostile Work Environment Claim Dismissed; “Run of the Mill” Workplace Disputes Were Not Actionable

In Matias v. Montefiore Medical Center et al, No. 20-CV-2849 (VEC), 2022 WL 4448585 (S.D.N.Y. Sept. 23, 2022), the court granted defendant’s motion for summary judgment on plaintiff’s claim of religion-based hostile work environment.

From the decision:

Defendants argue that Plaintiff has not identified any sufficiently severe or pervasive statements or conduct that would constitute a hostile work environment. Defs. Mem. of Law at 20. Although Plaintiff claims that “she was harassed because of her moral and conservative values as a Catholic,” Defendants argue that she “does not allege that any anti-Catholic statements were made to her.” Id. Likewise, Defendants argue that Wohlars’s criticism of Plaintiff’s religious speech at work amounts to criticism of her job performance and does not provide the basis for a hostile work environment claim.

Plaintiff, on the other hand, argues that Defendants failed to prevent Dries from “repeatedly harassing her by yelling at her in front of other patients, following her in a harassing fashion, sending her to non-functioning rooms to gather equipment, pulling her out of breakfast or lunch to do meaningless tasks, waving her finger at Plaintiff in a menacing gesture, and subjecting Plaintiff to discriminatory comments including ‘is this about the Pope?’ ” creating a triable issue of fact whether she was subjected to a hostile work environment.  Further, Plaintiff claims Defendants exhibited religious animus because Plaintiff “was barred from speaking about her religion while other nurses were not barred from speaking about their respective religious beliefs,” id. at 15, and because Wohlars “told Plaintiff on three separate occasions not to discuss her religion at the workplace” and to “find another job.”

Plaintiff has failed to demonstrate a prima facie case of a hostile work environment based on her religious beliefs. First, Plaintiff has not offered any evidence to show that Dries’s purported “harassment” of Plaintiff was motivated by hostility towards Plaintiff’s religion. Plaintiff’s skirmishes with Dries, “troubling though they may be,” are nothing more than “run-of-the-mill workplace conflicts” that simply “do not rise to the level of an objectively hostile workplace.” Even if those skirmishes added up to something more than standard workplace disputes, Plaintiff has adduced no evidence that her contretemps with Dries were because of Plaintiff’s religion.

Second, even if the few, isolated comments directed at Plaintiff could be construed as animus based on Plaintiff’s religion, they are insufficiently pervasive to evidence a hostile work environment. Admonishing Plaintiff for discussing religion in the workplace — specifically, for making comments that could arguably be construed as implicating a co-worker’s protected status — is not the kind of severe, pervasive conduct that Title VII or the NYSHRL proscribe.

[Cleaned up.]

Based on this, the court concluded that plaintiff failed to present evidence that anyone created an abusive work environment because of plaintiff’s religion or beliefs.

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