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New York Court Discusses Elements of a Hostile Work Environment Claim

April 3, 2020

There are myriad behaviors that fall under the umbrella of gender discrimination. For example, a person’s employment may suffer due to his or her gender by way of a demotion or denial of a promotion. In other instances, derogatory comments or threatening behavior based on a person’s gender may create a hostile work environment. Although in some cases, a person may be subject to gender discrimination and may experience a hostile work environment, individual acts of discrimination do not necessarily equate to a hostile work environment, as demonstrated in a recent case decided by the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York. If you suffered discrimination in the workplace due to your gender, it is wise to speak with an experienced New York employment discrimination attorney regarding your potential claims.

Factual Background

Allegedly, the plaintiff worked for the defendant for 34 years. At one point, she held the position of a supervisor of customer services, but her position was modified due to the fact that there were not enough employees to warrant a supervisor. She was advised, however, that if the position were reinstated, she would be restored to that position. Subsequently, in 2015 the plaintiff applied for the position of supervisor of customer services. No interviews were conducted for the position, which was given to a man who never applied for the position. The man then left the position, and the plaintiff once again applied for the position.

It is reported that the plaintiff’s supervisor gave the position to someone outside of the protected class a second time, after which the plaintiff filed a discrimination charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). After the plaintiff filed the EEOC complaint, she allegedly experienced a hostile work environment. Ultimately, the plaintiff filed a lawsuit against the defendant alleging claims of discrimination and hostile work environment in violation of Title VII. The defendant then filed a motion to dismiss the hostile work environment claims.

Establishing the Existence of a Hostile Work Environment

To establish the existence of a hostile work environment under Title VII, the plaintiff must set forth allegations that, objectively, the defendant engaged in conduct that a created an environment a reasonable person would find abusive or hostile and that the plaintiff subjectively perceives as abusive or hostile, which creates a hostile environment because of the plaintiff’s protected status. In other words, hostile work environment claims differ from discrete acts of discrimination and must allege conduct that is more than episodic but is sufficiently continuous and concentrated to be considered pervasive.

In the subject case, the court found the plaintiff’s hostile work environment claims lacking. Specifically, the court that the plaintiff’s complaint did not set forth specific allegations of discriminatory and harassing behavior other than conclusory comments that she suffered a hostile work environment, and did not allege incidents of gender-based harassment. Further, the court explained that the plaintiff’s argument that she was passed over for jobs she was qualified for due to her gender did not constitute a hostile work environment. The court elaborated that although the defendant’s acts may be considered discriminatory, they could not be strung together to formulate a hostile work environment claim. As such, the court granted the defendant’s motion, dismissing the plaintiff’s hostile work environment claim.

Consult an Experienced New York Employment Attorney

If you were the victim of discrimination at work, it is prudent to consult an experienced New York employment discrimination attorney to discuss what damages you may be able to recover. The dedicated employment discrimination attorneys of Gerstman Schwartz LLP have the skills and knowledge required to help you pursue the best result possible under the circumstances. You can contact us through our online form or by calling us at our Manhattan office at (212) 227-7070 or at our Garden City office at (516) 880-8170 to set up a complimentary and confidential meeting.

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