Sexual Harassment Plaintiff’s Constructive Discharge and Retaliation Claims Survive Summary Judgment

In a case decided today, Teran v. JetBlue Airways Corp., 2015 NY Slip Op 07546, 2015 WL 5971959 (App. Div. 1st Dept. Oct. 15, 2015), the Appellate Division, First Department reversed the lower court’s order granting summary judgment to defendant on plaintiff’s constructive discharge and retaliation claims under the New York City Human Rights Law. (For more details about this case, here is the complaint.)

From the decision:

Viewed in the light most favorable to plaintiff, the record shows that plaintiff, an acting supervisor, was sexually assaulted by a higher-ranking shift supervisor, who locked the door to the supervisors’ office late at night and repeatedly groped and kissed her while she asked him to stop and repeatedly pushed his hands away. The assault stopped only when another supervisor called to ask the assailant for help. As the assailant left the office, he looked at plaintiff and, in vulgar terms, told her that she was “hot” and that she sexually excited him.

Defendant suspended the offending supervisor, conducted an investigation, found that the offending supervisor had engaged in “inappropriate conduct,” and disciplined the supervisor by giving him what was, in effect, a final warning. Defendant then informed plaintiff that the supervisor would be returning to work with plaintiff. When plaintiff asked that she be separated from the supervisor, defendant offered only to transfer her from the evening shift to an early morning shift, which would entail a pay cut and a functional demotion, because there would be no acting supervisor positions available.

Based on this, the court concluded that “plaintiff raised issues of fact as to whether defendant constructively discharged her by deliberately creating working conditions that were so intolerable that a reasonable person would have felt compelled to resign” and “also raised triable issues of fact as to her retaliation cause of action, since the record shows that she formally complained about the sexual harassment and was constructively discharged within a short time thereafter, permitting an inference of a causal connection between her complaint and the constructive discharge.”

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