Court Explains Why Female NYPD Plaintiff Presented Sufficient Evidence as to the “Subjective” Prong of Her Hostile Work Environment Sexual Harassment Claim

The Southern District recently reiterated, in Bermudez v. City of New York, that a plaintiff asserting a hostile work environment claim must show, among other things, “that she found the environment offensive, and that a reasonable person also would have found the environment to be hostile or abusive.” The test, as such, has both subjective and objective components.

In the Bermudez case, plaintiff, a female Puerto Rican NYPD police officer, asserted (among other things) that she was subjected to hostile work environment sexual harassment by Lieutenant Donald Stroman and her partner, Officer Edward Sanabria.

Although the court dismissed her claims of race and religious discrimination, it denied defendants’ motion for summary judgment on her sex-based hostile work environment claim.

Defendants argued that plaintiff’s hostile work environment claims

fail because there is no evidence from which a reasonable jury could conclude that Plaintiff subjectively perceived her work environment as hostile. As to Officer Sanabria, Defendants cite Plaintiff’s admission that she danced with him at a December 2004 NYPD Christmas party, and the fact that she did not include any grievances against him in her October 2006 OEEO Complaint. As to Lieutenant Stroman, Defendants argue that such a conclusion follows from the invitations she extended to him to attend church with her and her confirmation, and the fact that she gave him a flask for Christmas in December 2004.

The court rejected this argument:

The Court is unpersuaded. Plaintiff testified, for example, that she invariably rebuffed Sanabria and Stroman’s persistent sexual advances, that she felt uncomfortable, fearful, isolated and ostracized as a result of all Defendants’ actions and that she eventually sought counseling with a psychologist. There is also no dispute that she filed formal complaints and a transfer request to a unit away from the officer defendants. This is ample evidence from which a jury could conclude that she subjectively perceived her work environment as hostile.

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