Court Rejects “Quid Pro Quo” Sexual Harassment Claim Where Plaintiff was Fired After Rebuffing Ex-Lover’s Attempt to Rekindle Relationship

In Zutrau v. Ice Systems, Inc., the Supreme Court, Suffolk County dismissed plaintiff’s “quid pro quo” sexual harassment claim.

Plaintiff – the entity defendant’s executive vice president – asserted numerous claims, both individually and derivatively, against the entity defendant and Jansing, its president and majority shareholder.

The court explained the law as follows:

To make out a prima facie case of quid-pro-quo sexual harassment, the plaintiff must present evidence that she was subjected to unwelcome sexual conduct and that her reaction to that conduct was then used as a basis for her termination. The gravamen of any sexual harassment claim is that the alleged sexual advances were unwelcome. Thus, discrimination against an employee on the basis of a failed voluntary sexual relationship does not, of itself, constitute discrimination because of sex. Sexual harassment of the quid-pro-quo type occurs when unwelcome sexual conduct, whether requests for sexual favors, sexual demands or conduct of a sexual nature, is used either explicitly or implicitly as a basis for employment decisions affecting compensation, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment.

Applying this rule, the court reasoned:

The plaintiff does not claim that a continued sexual relationship with Jansing was a condition of her employment. Indeed, she cannot make such a claim since it is undisputed that her employment with ICE continued for four years after her sexual relationship with Jansing had ended. Nor does the plaintiff claim that she was discharged because she refused to submit to Jansing’s requests for sexual favors or sexual demands. Rather, she asserts that she was discharged because she terminated their platonic relationship and rebuffed Jansing’s attempts to rekindle that relationship. This does not constitute quid-pro-quo sexual harassment. 

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