Physical Threats Directed Solely at Women Supported Claim of Hostile Work Environment Based on Sex

In Castagna v. Luceno and Majestic Kitchens, 2014 WL 840820 (Summary Order), the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit recently vacated a district court’s grant of summary judgment to defendants, and held that a reasonable jury could conclude that plaintiff suffered a sex-based hostile work environment under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the New York State Human Rights Law:

First, [there was] evidence that [Majestic’s President and owner Bill] Luceno directed physical threats at three female employees, including Castagna, on separate occasions, but he never physically threatened men. Under our precedents, such evidence of physical threats is highly probative of the severity of the alleged hostile work environment. … The lack of any evidence that Luceno physically threatened men—as opposed to women—supports a reasonable inference that Luceno singled out women for physical threats because of their sex.

Second, the record is replete with evidence that Luceno’s most extreme outbursts were directed at women. A reasonable jury would be entitled to conclude that such comments—at least in conjunction with the evidence of physical threats—were either sufficiently severe or sufficiently pervasive … to have altered [Castagna’s] working conditions. Given the gender-explicit content of several of these outbursts, including but not limited to referring to other women as “bitch [es],” the district court erred in concluding that no reasonable jury could find that Castagna was subjected to a hostile work environment because of her sex.

The court also held that the lower court erroneously granted summary judgment to defendants as to plaintiff’s constructive discharge claims, since the sole basis for the dismissal was its determination the plaintiff “failed to establish the lesser standard for a hostile work environment claim.”

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