Sexual Harassment Case, Arising From Inmate Harassment, Survives Summary Judgment

In Thompson v. Corizon Health, Inc., et al, 18 Civ. 7139, 2021 WL 105767 (S.D.N.Y. Jan. 12, 2021), the court, inter alia, held that plaintiff presented enough facts to survive summary judgment on her sexual harassment claim under the New York City Human Rights Law.

From the decision:

The parties do not dispute that Plaintiffs routinely suffered a variety of plainly unwelcome gender-based conduct by inmates: threats of rape and other sexual violence, graphic sexual comments, inmates’ intentional exposure of their genitalia, acts of sexual exhibitionism such as masturbation, and spraying of semen, urine, feces and other bodily fluids. Although “[P]laintiffs’ chosen occupation necessarily places them in the company of prison inmates, men not distinguished for commendable deportment or courtly display of social graces, and … as a result, exposure to an occasional embarrassing remark or situation is to be expected,” Dawson v. Cty. of Westchester, 373 F.3d 265, 273 (2d Cir. 2004), a reasonable juror could conclude that the complained-of conduct far exceeds tolerable workplace conditions, instead presenting severe health and safety issues for Plaintiffs. On this basis, Defendant is denied summary judgment on its hostile work environment claim.

*3 Defendant claims that the majority of the complained-of misconduct is not based on gender, but instead relates only to the gender-neutral issue of violence in the workplace. This argument is unpersuasive. First, Plaintiffs present evidence that connects the gender-based misconduct that Plaintiffs complain of and workplace safety — evidence of sexual violence, as well as evidence that violent conduct went hand-in-hand with sexual harassment. Second, Plaintiffs state in sworn affidavits that the violent conduct Defendant identifies as non-gender-based was particularly directed toward women. A reasonable jury could find that the complained-of conduct was gender based, thus precluding summary judgment for Defendant on this issue.

Plaintiff Thompson also testified that her clinical supervisor once grabbed her head and pushed it onto his lap in a repeated motion indicative of oral sex. Defendant denies this allegation. A genuine dispute of material fact exists as to this claim, thus precluding summary judgment.

As to the issue of imputing liability to defendant, the court noted, inter alia, that “[t]he parties do not dispute that Defendant was informed of instances of misconduct but disagree as to whether Defendant exercised enough control over conditions at Rikers Island to address the complained-of misconduct.” This disagreement, held the court, precluded summary judgment for defendant.

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