Religion-Based Hostile Work Environment Claim Dismissed; Single Comment Insufficient

In Nofal v. IMCMV Times Square LLC et al, 22 Civ. 3104 (DEH), 2024 WL 1138928 (S.D.N.Y. March 15, 2024), the court, inter alia, granted defendant’s motion for summary judgment on plaintiff’s religion-based hostile work environment claim.

Plaintiff, who is Muslim, predicated his religious-discrimination claim on a single comment, namely, telling plaintiff that if he did not like her comment (telling him that he should try bacon and other pork-containing foods), he should go home.

From the decision:

When, as here, the plaintiff alleges that a single incident created a hostile work environment, he or she must show it was “extraordinarily severe.” In contrast, “[h]ostile-work-environment claims brought pursuant to the NYCHRL require a plaintiff to show only that he or she was treated less well than other employees because of the relevant characteristic.”

Summary judgment is granted to Defendant with respect to Plaintiff’s federal, state, and city hostile work environment claims, to the extent they allege discrimination on the basis of religion. The NYCHRL offers the most plaintiff-friendly standard. See Local Civil Rights Restoration Act of 2005, N.Y.C. Local Law No. 85 (2005) (amending the NYCHRL to establish its “uniquely broad and remedial purposes” and instructing courts to “view[ ] similarly worded provisions of federal and state civil rights laws as a floor below which the City’s Human Rights Law cannot fall”). As discussed, the remark described by Plaintiff is offensive, but it is on par with what courts in this Circuit have held amounts at most to a “petty slight[ ] and trivial inconvenience[ ]”under the NYCHRL. That Plaintiff admits that Ms. Haig-Cohee’s comment is the sole comment regarding his religion made during his employment further weakens his argument. See Cruz v. Bernstein Litowitz Berger & Grossman LLP, No. 20 Civ. 8596, 2023 WL 2691456, at *16 (S.D.N.Y. Mar. 29, 2023) (finding a “lone, stray remark[ ]” to be insufficient to infer discrimination under the NYCHRL); Nelson v. Argyropoulous, No. 18 Civ. 11413, 2021 WL 4352313, at *2 (S.D.N.Y. Sept. 24, 2021) (“[U]nder the NYCHRL, isolated incidents of unwelcome verbal … conduct have been found to constitute the type of petty slights and trivial inconveniences that are not actionable.”); Wei v. Antehm Inc., No. 16 Civ. 468, 2018 WL 5622571, at *13 (E.D.N.Y. Sept. 4, 2018) (“[N]otwithstanding the uniquely broad and remedial purpose of the NYCHRL, this isolated incident of unwelcome verbal conduct is insufficient to support an age discrimination claim under NYCHRL’s broad provisions.”); see also Feingold v. New York, 366 F.3d 138, 150 & n.9 (2d Cir. 2004) (contrasting “routine” anti-Semitic remarks with “isolated comments made infrequently over a period of five years” in the context of a Title VII hostile work environment claim).

[Citations omitted.]

The court concluded by holding that since plaintiff did not create a genuine dispute of material fact as to his NYC Human Rights Law claims, he likewise failed to do so with respect to his federal and state hostile work environment claims.

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