Sexual Harassment Hostile Work Environment Claims Survive Summary Judgment Against NYC Health & Hospitals Corp.

In Bilitch v. NYC Health & Hospitals Corp. et al, No. 17238/11, 2018-14913, 2021 N.Y. Slip Op. 03300, 2021 WL 2125826 (N.Y.A.D. 2 Dept. May 26, 2021), the court, inter alia, held that the employer was not entitled to summary judgment on plaintiff’s sexual harassment hostile work environment claims asserted under the New York State and City Human Rights Laws.

The court summarized the facts as follows:

Inna Shuman was an employee at the defendant Coney Island Hospital. Her supervisor for six years was the defendant David P. Neckritz. Prior to her death, Shuman commenced this action asserting causes of action sounding in gender discrimination, hostile work environment, and retaliation, in violation of the New York State Human Rights Law and the New York City Human Rights Law, as well as intentional infliction of emotional distress. Shuman alleged that shortly after Neckritz’s appointment as chairman of the emergency department, he approached her one morning and put his hands on her shoulders while claiming he was going to make her his “doctor in charge.” Neckritz then allegedly slid his hands down Shuman’s chest, making contact with her breasts, prompting her to push him away. Later that morning, Neckritz continued to make contact with Shuman by pushing his body against her during their “morning report.” Shuman disclosed this conduct to her supervisors, and asserted that Neckritz responded to the rebuff and the complaints by, among other things, denying her the “doctor in charge” promotion, assessing her negative employment evaluations, and committing her to a “focus professional practice evaluation” program that resulted in a restricted work schedule which effectively precluded her from obtaining overtime and performing procedures necessary to maintain certain clinical privileges. (Cleaned up.)

After summarizing the black-letter law, the court held that defendant failed to establish their prima facie entitlement to judgment as a matter of law dismissing plaintiff’s hostile work environment claims, since they failed to demonstrate that plaintiff’s allegations were not “sufficiently severe or pervasive as to permeate the workplace and alter the conditions of her employment” or that plaintiff “was not treated less well than other employees on the basis of gender.”

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