Hostile Work Environment Dismissal Affirmed; “One Offensive Remark” Held Insufficient

In Pitter–Green v NYU Langone Medical Center, No. 1385, 155386/21, 2023-00123, 2024 N.Y. Slip Op. 00283, 2024 WL 234902 (N.Y.A.D. 1 Dept., Jan. 23, 2024), the court affirmed a lower court’s summary judgment dismissal of plaintiff’s hostile work environment claims asserted under the New York State and City Human Rights Laws.

From the decision:

Defendant established entitlement to summary judgment on plaintiff’s hostile work environment claims under New York State and City Human Rights Laws. In opposition, plaintiff cites only one offensive remark that was made to her. She further asserts, in a conclusory fashion, that she was denied vacation days and that she was reprimanded for what she summarily characterizes as “minor” errors. In fact, the errors at issue involved such matters as mislabeling patient specimens which prevented medical testing on those samples. Additionally, plaintiff contends that she was monitored while working and that Vargas ignored her in the hallways. Regarding her State hostile work environment claim, plaintiff’s showing was insufficient to create an issue of fact as to whether the workplace was “permeated with discriminatory intimidation, ridicule, and insult that is sufficiently severe or pervasive to alter the conditions of [her] employment and create an abusive work environment” (Forrest v. Jewish Guild for the Blind, 3 N.Y.3d 295, 310, 786 N.Y.S.2d 382, 819 N.E.2d 998 [2004], quoting Harris v. Forklift Sys., Inc., 510 U.S. 17, 21, 114 S.Ct. 367, 126 L.Ed.2d 295 [1993]; see e.g. Chin v. New York Hous. Auth., 106 A.D.3d 443, 444–445, 965 N.Y.S.2d 42 [1st Dept. 2013], lv denied 22 N.Y.3d 861, 2014 WL 591245 [2014]). Likewise, plaintiff has not shown how the alleged offensive remark or purportedly discriminatory conduct indicative of a hostile work environment amount to more than “petty slights or trivial inconveniences” that would demonstrate she was treated less well than other employees because of her protected characteristics.

The court also affirmed the dismissal of plaintiff’s disparate treatment (termination) claim, noting (inter alia) that “by her own admission, defendant’s decision to terminate her on grounds that she jeopardized the confidentiality of patient records by storing them in her locker was a legitimate, nondiscriminatory reason.”

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