Hostile Work Environment Claim Dismissed; Comment About Plaintiff’s Thighs, “Baby Daddy” Insufficient

In McKenzie v. Southern Nuclear Operating Company, 2023 WL 2403778 (S.D.Ga. March 8, 2023), the court granted defendant’s motion for summary judgment on plaintiff’s race- and gender-based hostile work environment claims.

From the decision:

At most, there are only two allegations Plaintiff has made that can be connected in any way to her race or gender: (1) she alleges in 2016, Mr. Padgett flirted with her, and told Plaintiff on multiple occasions that he knew it was her when she walked by his office because “of the way [Plaintiff’s] thighs rub together”; and (2) in 2018, a co-worker asked her “[w]here your baby daddy at?” in response to Plaintiff stating that she could not work an outage because she did not have childcare. The connection between these comments and Plaintiff’s race and gender is rather attenuated; nevertheless, the Court will evaluate whether they objectively altered the terms or conditions of her employment.

To determine whether harassment objectively altered an employee’s terms or conditions of employment, courts use four factors: ‘(1) the frequency of the conduct; (2) the severity of the conduct; (3) whether the conduct is physically threatening or humiliating, or a mere offensive utterance; and (4) whether the conduct unreasonably interferes with the employee’s job performance. Here, the cited comments are too infrequent to be said to have altered the terms and conditions of Plaintiff’s employment. Plaintiff’s allegations that Mr. Padgett flirted with her refer to his conduct in 2016 when Plaintiff first started working at Plant Vogtle and ended when he became her supervisor. The comment about her child’s father was a single, isolated comment that occurred two years later. Furthermore, these comments are not physically threatening, nor are they severe enough to impose liability on Defendant as a hostile work environment is only created when the workplace is permeated with discriminatory intimidation, ridicule, and insult, not where there is the mere utterance of an epithet.

[Cleaned up.]

Based on this, the court granted defendant’s motion.

Share This: