Age-Based Hostile Work Environment Claim Survives Summary Judgment

In Leone v. Brown Forman Corp., No. 151627/2019, 2024 WL 198429(N.Y. Sup Ct, New York County Jan. 12, 2024), the court, inter alia, denied defendant’s motion for summary judgment on their age-based hostile work environment claim asserted under the New York City Human Rights Law.

From the decision:

As it relates to plaintiffs hostile work environment claim, to prevail on a hostile work environment claim, “plaintiff must show (1) that the harassment was sufficiently severe or pervasive to alter the conditions of his [or her] employment and create an abusive working environment, and (2) that a specific basis exists for imputing the objectionable conduct to the employer.” (Weekes v Jetblue Airways Corp., 2022 WL 4291371, 2022 US Dist LEXIS 167723, *31 [ED NY, Oct. 16, 2022, No. 21-CV-1965 (MKB)]; Alfano v Costello, 294 F3d 365, 373-74 [2d Cir 2002]; Ji Sun Jennifer Kim v Goldberg, Weprin, Finkel, Goldstein, LLP, 120 AD3d 18 [1st Dept 2014]; Brennan v Metro. Opera Ass’n, 284 AD2d 66, 72 [1st Dept 2001].) “The plaintiff must also show either that a single incident was extraordinarily severe, or that a series of incidents were sufficiently continuous and concerted to have altered the conditions of [his or] her working environment.” (Desardouin v City of Rochester, 708 F3d 102 [2d Cir 2013] [internal quotation marks and citations omitted]; see Cruz v Coach Stores, Inc., 202 F3d 560, 570 [2d Cir 2000].) Whether a hostile environment exists can be determined by looking at all the circumstances, which may include “the frequency of the discriminatory conduct; its severity; whether it is physically threatening or humiliating, or a mere offensive utterance; and whether it unreasonably interfere with an employee’s work performance.” (Harris v Forklift Sys., 510 US 17, 23 [1993].) Under the NYCHRL, a plaintiff claiming a hostile work environment must demonstrate that he or she was treated less well than similarly situated employees (see Wolfe-Santos v NYS Gaming Commn., 188 AD3d 622, 622 [1st Dept 2020].)

This court finds that BF has failed to establish entitlement to dismissal of plaintiff’s claim of hostile work environment. Plaintiff alleges that he was denied opportunities afforded to younger, less experienced employees, that he was demoted without cause, and berated by his employers, and he also asserts that he was terminated based on fraudulently produced invoices. (See Ramos v Metro-North Commuter R.R., 194 AD3d 433, 434 [1st Dept 2021].) Defendant has not demonstrated that the conduct alleged constitutes nothing more than petty slights and trivial inconvenience. (See Ramos v Metro-North Commuter R.R., 194 AD3d at 434; Williams v New York City Hous. Auth., 61 AD3d 62, 72-73, 80-81 [1st Dept 2009], lv denied 13 NY3d 702 [2009]; see also Hernandez v Kaisman, 103 AD3d 106, 113-114 [1st Dept 2012].)

Based on this, the court denied this branch of defendant’s motion seeking dismissal of this claim.

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