Plaintiff Sufficiently Alleges Race-Based Hostile Work Environment Claim Under City, But Not Federal or State, Law, Court Holds

In Latif v. The City of New York et al, 20 Civ. 8248 (AT), 2024 WL 1348827 (S.D.N.Y. March 28, 2024), the court, inter alia, denied defendants’ motion to dismiss plaintiff’s claim of hostile work environment under the New York City Human Rights Law.

Among other things, the plaintiff “alleges that she was the target of a racially discriminatory statement as well as frequent intimidation and ridicule.” For example, she alleges that when she informed the deputy director of her hours he suggested that plaintiff was going to try to leave early; that she was forced to stand for an entire workday as “punishment” because she objected to her supervisor’s attempt to change her schedule with minimal notice; and that plaintiff approached the same supervisor about a possible promotion and he “yelled at [her] to go find a job somewhere else.”

The court held that plaintiff failed to meet the standard for a hostile work environment under state and federal law – “[a]bsent allegations that the severe and pervasive conduct constituting the alleged hostile work environment was ‘because of’ Latif’s race, her hostile work environment claim must be dismissed” – it reached a different conclusion under the more lenient city law.

It continued:

The NYCHRL’s standard for maintaining a hostile work environment claim is lower than that of its federal and state counterparts. Farrugia v. N. Shore Univ. Hosp., 820 N.Y.S.2d 718, 724 (N.Y. Sup. Ct. 2006). The NYCHRL imposes liability for harassing conduct that does not qualify as “severe or pervasive,” and “questions of ‘severity’ and ‘pervasiveness’ are applicable to consideration of the scope of permissible damages, but not to the question of underlying liability.” Williams v. N.Y.C. Hous. Auth., 61 A.D.3d 62, 76 (N.Y. App. Div. 2009) (citing Farrugia, 820 N.Y.S.2d at 725). A plaintiff need only allege “that similarly situated individuals who did not share [her] protected characteristics were treated more favorably.” Whitfield-Ortiz v. Dep’t of Educ. of City of N.Y., 116 A.D.3d 580, 581 (N.Y. App. Div. 2014). However, “petty slights or trivial inconveniences … are not actionable.” Williams, 872 N.Y.S.D.2d at 41.

Latif has sufficiently alleged that she was treated less well than similarly situated non-African-American employees, plausibly due to a discriminatory motive. As such, she has sufficiently alleged a hostile work environment claim under the NYCHRL. See Moazzaz v. MetLife, Inc., No. 19 Civ. 10531, 2021 WL 827648, at *11 n.3 (S.D.N.Y. Mar. 4, 2021) (“Under the NYCHRL, there are not separate standards for ‘discrimination’ and ‘harassment’ claims.”

Accordingly, this decision is instructive on the crucial difference between federal and state law, on the one hand, and the city law, on the other.

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