2nd Circuit Affirms Dismissal of Hostile Work Environment Claims Against Berkeley College

In Estevez v. Berkeley College et al, 2022 WL 16843460 (2d Cir. Nov. 10, 2022), the court, inter alia, affirmed the dismissal of plaintiff’s sex-based hostile work environment claims under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the New York State Human Rights Law.

From the decision:

With respect to the Employees’ hostile-work-environment claims, we conclude that the district court properly granted summary judgment in favor of Berkeley College, for substantially the same reasons stated in that court’s thorough and well-reasoned opinion and order. For hostile-work-environment claims, a plaintiff must show (in relevant part) that a reasonable person in the plaintiff’s position, considering all the circumstances including the social context in which particular behavior occurs and is experienced by its target, would find the alleged conduct sufficiently severe or pervasive as to alter the conditions of the plaintiff’s employment and create an abusive working environment. Even if we assumed for the sake of argument that the conduct a reasonable person might consider severe or pervasive can evolve over time, the conduct alleged here — primarily consisting of a female co-worker staring and frequently making backhanded compliments about the Employees’ clothes, bodies, and appearances, a male co-worker frequently commenting that there was too much estrogen in the room, and a male supervisor making a single comment arguably evidencing a bias against working mothers — is not sufficiently severe or pervasive to support a hostile-work-environment claim.

Furthermore, contrary to the Employees’ and amicus curiae’s contentions, we do not find that the district court made any procedural errors. For starters, it cannot be said that the district court failed to view the evidence contextually and in the aggregate; ignored or discounted any material evidence; or improperly made credibility determinations, resolved factual disputes, or weighed evidence. More particularly, we find nothing improper in the district court’s remark that the “schtick” of the co-worker who made the “too much estrogen” comments “was unfunny and distasteful, but it is the sort of conduct ordinarily greeted with eyerolls or snappy comebacks.

[Cleaned up.]

The court concluded that by doing so, the district court “was merely conducting the legally required severe-or-pervasive inquiry and explaining its rationale for why such conduct was too trivial to meaningfully contribute to the Employees’ hostile-work-environment claim.”

Share This: