Hostile Work Environment Dismissal Affirmed; Conduct Occurring Over Two Years and Concerning Different Departments and Supervisors

In Pattanayak v. Mastercard Inc., 2023 WL 2358826 (2d Cir. March 6, 2023), the U.S. Court for the Second Circuit affirmed the dismissal of plaintiff’s hostile work environment claim.

From the decision:

Pattanayak alleges a hostile work environment based on a handful of incidents that do not amount to “severe or pervasive” conduct. Harris, 510 U.S. at 21. First, we recently found conduct more egregious than Pattanayak’s supervisor’s March 2016 and Lee’s 2017 comments (PSAC ¶¶ 37-38, 41, 101) to be insufficiently severe to make out a hostile work environment. In Boyar v. Yellen, for example, we affirmed the dismissal of a hostile work environment claim based on allegations that a supervisor threatened to “wring [the plaintiff’s] neck,” “ignored him at a meeting,” “yelled at him very loudly,” and “told him he had 90 minutes to complete two certification exams, when he had 60 minutes to complete each.” No. 21-507, 2022 WL 120356, at *3 (2d Cir. Jan. 13, 2022) (cleaned up). Pattanayak’s allegations fall well short of those in Boyar.

Second, Pattanayak’s rejected requests for resources, his heavy workload, and his exclusion by his coworkers in 2017 and 2018 are also insufficient. The PSAC fails to allege that these incidents “unreasonably interfere[d] with an employee’s work performance.” Littlejohn, 795 F.3d at 321. Indeed, Pattanayak allegedly “exceed[ed] 2018’s full-year sales targets within just the first six months of 2018” at the same time as the incidents. PSAC ¶ 200; see, e.g., Littlejohn, 795 F.3d at 321 (rejecting a hostile work environment claim based, in part, on the employer requiring the plaintiff to recreate work, increasing the plaintiff’s hours, “distanc[ing] herself from” plaintiff “when she was nearby,” “declin[ing] to meet with” plaintiff, and “replac[ing] [plaintiff] at meetings”).

In the aggregate, these incidents do not amount to a pervasive hostile work environment. The alleged incidents occurred over the course of two years and concerned different departments and supervisors. “As a general rule, incidents must be more than episodic; they must be sufficiently continuous and concerted in order to be deemed pervasive.” Feingold v. New York, 366 F.3d 138, 150 (2d Cir. 2004) (cleaned up). Moreover, even though many of Pattanayak’s allegations reflect the reality that “many bosses are harsh, unjust, and rude,” Pattanayak fails to link or connect any of these allegations “to the claimed ground of discrimination,” i.e., his race, national origin, or disability. Alfano v. Costello, 294 F.3d 365, 377 (2d Cir. 2002).

Based on this, the court held that dismissal of this claim was proper.

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