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Legal Memorandum: Viable Hostile Work Environment Claims in NY

Issue: What is the viability of a hostile work environment claim under 42 U.S.C. 1981 in New York?

Area of Law: Constitutional Law, Employee Law
Keywords: Hostile work environment claim; Viability
Jurisdiction: New York
Cited Cases: 223 F.3d 62
Cited Statutes: 42 U.S.C. § 1981
Date: 10/01/2008

Claims based on a hostile work environment are cognizable under 42 U.S.C. § 1981 in New York.  Whidbee v. Garazelli Food Specialties, Inc., 223 F.3d 62, 69 (2d Cir. 2000).  Whidbee is one of the leading cases and has excellent “plaintiff friendly” discussion of elements of hostile work environment claim.  In such cases, the court “must apply the legal standard under Title VII to § 1981 discrimination and hostile work environment claims.  Liburd v. Bronx Lebanon Hosp. Ctr., No. 07 Civ. 11316, 2008 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 62867 (S.D.N.Y. Aug. 18, 2008).  Furthermore, the same standard is applied to both race- and sex-based hostile work environment cases.  Richardson v. N.Y. State Dep’t of Correction Servs., 180 F.3d 426, 436 n.2 (2d Cir. 1999).  There is one significant difference, however, regarding the parties subject to liability.  “[U]nlike a Title VII claim, a § 1981 claim may be brought against individual defendants.  ‘In order to make out a claim for individual liability under § 1981, a plaintiff must demonstrate some affirmative link to casually connect the actor with the discriminatory action.'”  Liburd, 2008 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 62867 (quoting Patterson v. County of Oneida, 375 F.3d 206, 229 (2d Cir. 2004)). 

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