Hostile Work Environment Claim Dismissed; Comments and Incidents Were “Isolated” and “Episodic”

In Gray v. Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing Company, 3:23-CV-01069 (VDO), 2024 WL 1879745 (D.Conn. April 30, 2024), the court, inter alia, granted defendant’s motion to dismiss plaintiff’s hostile work environment claim.

From the decision:

To establish a claim of hostile work environment, the workplace [must be] permeated with discriminatory intimidation, ridicule, and insult that is sufficiently severe or pervasive to alter the conditions of the victim’s employment and create an abusive working environment. Courts must examine “all the circumstances” in determining whether an environment is “hostile” or “abusive,” including the following factors: (1) the frequency of the discriminatory conduct; (2) its severity; (3) whether it is physically threatening or humiliating, or a mere offensive utterance; and (4) whether it unreasonably interferes with an employee’s work performance. To prevail on a hostile work environment claim, a plaintiff who is harassed by a co-worker must show both (1) a hostile work environment and (2) that a specific basis exists for imputing the conduct that created the hostile environment to the employer.

The conduct Plaintiff complains of consists of four events in the span of approximately five months: (1) on the day Plaintiff started working at 3M (or on some later unspecified date), Hatcher told co-workers that he had “dibs” on and sexual relations with Plaintiff; (2) on some unspecified date, Hatcher falsely accused Plaintiff of racism, stating she had racial biases because her boyfriend was white; (3) on December 5, 2021, Hatcher turned to face Plaintiff and stared at her for a prolonged period of time and reported her to the Shift Lead for violating Defendant’s mask policy; and (4) after Plaintiff reported Hatcher to HR in December 2021, HR allegedly told Plaintiff that Hatcher claimed Plaintiff said, “Blacks need to stay with Blacks.”

The Court finds that these comments and incidents were isolated and episodic in nature, and do not meet the “high” standard to sustain a hostile work environment claim. Terry, 336 F.3d at 148; see also Agosto v. New York City Dep’t of Educ., 982 F.3d 86, 103–04 (2d Cir. 2020) (affirming summary judgment of no hostile work environment claim where a coworker stared at a plaintiff while licking a lollipop to simulate fellatio: Although offensive and inappropriate, Ureña’s alleged act of suggestively licking a lollipop is not in the category of extraordinarily severe single actions that create a hostile work environment.). Specifically, Plaintiff fails to allege how Hatcher’s alleged statement about her boyfriend and the statement that “Blacks need to stay with Blacks” contributed to a hostile work environment, or that he made such statements due to her race or color. Likewise, relying on the same facts for her hostile work environment claims as those articulated for her disparate treatment claims, none of Plaintiff’s allegations plausibly suggest that the conduct complained of occurred because of her sex. In order to sufficiently plead a hostile work environment, Plaintiff must link the harassment to her claim of sex discrimination.

[Citations and internal quotation marks omitted.]

Continuing, the court noted that even if plaintiff had established the existence of a hostile workplace, she failed to alleged how the alleged words an actions can be imputed to defendant.

Share This: