Religion-Based Hostile Work Environment Claims, Based in Part on Single Anti-Semitic Remark, Survive Dismissal

In Herman v. City of New York et al, 21-cv-6295 (ALC), 2023 WL 6386887 (S.D.N.Y. Sept. 29, 2023), the court, inter alia, denied defendants’ motion to dismiss plaintiff’s claims of hostile work environment, based on his Jewish religion, under the New York State and City Human Rights Laws.

From the decision:

Here, Plaintiff alleges that his hostile work environment claim is premised on being transferred to a less desirable locker, being subjected to an anti-Semitic remark by Defendant Miranda, receiving unwarranted CDs, and being transferred from the night shift to the day shift resulting in less pay and being forced to work with Defendant Miranda and other lieutenants who were harassing him. (ECF No. 31 at 18.) Plaintiff alleges that these incidents were because of his religion. (Id.)

The Court finds that Plaintiff has alleged sufficient facts to support his hostile work environment claim at this stage in the pleadings. As an initial matter, contrary to Defendants’ arguments, “a hostile work environment can…be established through evidence of a single incident of harassment that is extraordinarily severe.” Miller v. N.Y. State Police, No. 20-3976, 2022 WL 1133010, at *2 (2d Cir. Apr. 18, 2022) (citing Fincher v. Depository Tr. & Clearing Corp., 604 F.3d 712, 724 (2d Cir. 2010)). Although Defendants attempt to frame Defendant Miranda’s anti-Semitic statement as a “stray remark”, the content of the remark, the fact that it was made within earshot of Plaintiff and other colleagues, and the ensuing alleged unwarranted CDs and shift changes are sufficient at the pleading stage to sustain a claim of a hostile work environment based on Plaintiff’s religion. See LeGrand v. Walmart Stores E., LP, 779 F. App’x 779, 783 (2d Cir. 2019) (sustaining hostile work environment claim because “reasonable people would find an environment to be hostile if supervisors make racist comments about them behind their backs.”) (summary order). Accordingly, drawing all inferences in favor of Plaintiff, the Court finds that Plaintiff has adequately alleged his hostile work environment claim at this stage of the case. See Lewis v. Roosevelt Island Operating Corp., 246 F. Supp. 3d 979, 990 (S.D.N.Y. 2017); see also Patane v. Clark, 508 F.3d 106, 114 (2d Cir. 2007) (“[W]e conclude that Plaintiff has alleged sufficient facts to be entitled to offer evidence to support her claim.”) (internal alterations and citations omitted).

The court additionally found that plaintiff adequately stated a hostile work environment claim under the New York City Human Rights Law, which requires plaintiff only to “plausibly allege unequal treatment based on a protected characteristic.”

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