FDNY Paramedic’s Hostile Work Environment Claims Dismissed

In Anderson v. City of New York, 2024 WL 183103 (S.D.N.Y. Jan. 17, 2024), the court, inter alia, granted defendant’s motion to dismiss plaintiff’s hostile work environment claims.

As to plaintiff’s claim under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the court explained:

Plaintiff alleges after FDNY assigned her to the morning shift, she was assigned to a partner who subjected her to verbal abuse, harassment, and a “campaign of intimidation,” including “throwing objects, slamming doors, and staring at [her] in common spaces.” (Amend. Compl. ¶ 5.) In her Opposition, Plaintiff further specified that on or around May 13, 2021, her coworker Anthony Perez harassed her due to her gender by shouting at her, throwing equipment, slamming doors, and blocking her in the office. (Pl. Opp. at 4.) In addition to the abuse from this partner, Plaintiff also alleges two other employees harassed her several times as well. (Id.) Plaintiff further alleges other individuals of a different race and gender did not experience harassment. (Amend. Compl. ¶5.) Defendant again argues Plaintiff has failed to state sufficient factual allegations to support her claim, and the Court agrees.

“[I]t is axiomatic that in order to establish a sex-based hostile work environment under Title VII, a plaintiff must demonstrate that the conduct occurred because of her sex.” Alfano v. Costello, 294 F.3d 365, 374 (2d Cir. 2002) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted). Plaintiff fails to allege a causal connection between the alleged workplace abuse she experienced and her gender, instead making conclusory allegations. Although Mr. Perez’s alleged behavior indicate he is unpleasant to work with, Plaintiff’s factual allegations fail to plausibly establish any discriminatory motive. Vito v. Bausch & Lomb Inc., 403 F. App’x 593, 596 (2d Cir. 2010) (plaintiff’s hostile work environment claims “amount to, at most, workplace bullying completely detached from any discriminatory motive”). Furthermore, without more facts to show discriminatory motive, the allegation that male employees were not subject to the harassment also falls short of stating a claim. Also far from sufficient are the facts describing the instances of harassment from the two other employees—Plaintiff only alleges they harassed her “several times,” and fails to identify over what period of time, the number of times, or any specifics of their behavior.

Even if Plaintiff sufficiently alleged she experienced harassment and abuse because of her gender, the alleged instances of harassment from Mr. Perez are not sufficiently severe or pervasive to constitute a hostile work environment. The Second Circuit has found singular instances of workplace abuse may create a hostile work environment. See Perry v. Slensby, No. 16-CV-08947 (NSR), 2018 WL 1136922, at *6 (S.D.N.Y. Feb. 28, 2018) (collecting cases). However, the harassment Mr. Perez allegedly subjected Plaintiff to here does not rise to a similar level. (See e.g., Marquez v. City of New York, No. 14-CV-8185 (AJN), 2016 WL 4767577, at *9 (S.D.N.Y. Sept. 12, 2016) (harassing conduct not sufficiently severe where no evidence conduct physically threatened plaintiff or interfered with plaintiff’s work); Spina v. Our Lady of Mercy Med. Ctr., No. 97 CIV.4661 RCC, 2003 WL 22434143, at *3 (S.D.N.Y. Oct. 23, 2003), aff’d, 120 F. App’x 408 (2d Cir. 2005) (defendant’s behavior of yelling, staring at, and following the plaintiff too “mild” for harassment claim); Annunziata v. Int’l Bhd. of Elec. Workers Loc. Union # 363, No. 15-CV-03363 (NSR), 2018 WL 2416568, at *16 (S.D.N.Y. May 29, 2018) (harassment not especially severe where comments “not sexual in nature,” “overly profane,” or “accompanied by any rude or physically threatening gestures”). Plaintiff fails to allege that she felt physically threatened, the harassment interfered with her work, or that Mr. Perez’s behavior or statements were particularly obscene, profane, or offensive. The Court thus dismisses Plaintiff’s hostile work environment claim under Title VII.

The court further held that plaintiff’s claims failed even under the more liberal New York City Human Rights Law, noting plaintiff’s “conclusory assertion” that she was subjected to undesirable conditions because of her membership in a protected class.

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