Sexual Harassment / Hostile Work Environment Sufficiently Alleged Against Liquidnet Holdings, Court Holds

In Corradino v. Liquidnet Holdings Inc. & Seth Merrin, 19 Civ. 10434, 2021 WL 2853362 (S.D.N.Y. July 8, 2021) (J. Schofield), the court, inter alia, held that the plaintiff sufficiently alleged “hostile work environment” sexual harassment under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the New York State Human Rights Law, and the New York City Human Rights Law, and therefore denied defendants’ motion to dismiss those claims.

After summarizing the “black letter law”, the court applied it to the facts of the case:

Here, the Complaint sufficiently pleads discrimination based on a hostile work environment of sexual harassment. The Complaint alleges more than a few isolated, off-color comments. On several occasions between 2014 and 2019, Liquidnet’s CEO, Merrin, asked Plaintiff to engage in sex and/or a relationship with him, despite Plaintiff’s repeated refusals to do so. He looked at Plaintiff in a sexual manner at a public event, and during corporate lunches and parties he discussed his sex life and used lewd language in front of Plaintiff. Merrin also generally cultivated an environment of sexual harassment at Liquidnet by requiring his female assistant to order prostitutes for him, incessantly texting a junior female employee who was not romantically interested in him and asking another female management-level employee to go home with him. Merrin was not the only individual engaging in sexual harassment. Plaintiff’s supervisor supplied unwanted praise of Plaintiff’s appearance and personality and, when he learned she had a boyfriend, stopped speaking to her. The former COO of Liquidnet asked Plaintiff if she had ever had an affair and told her he had done so “a few times.” Liquidnet’s Head of Member Services asked Plaintiff out, including to his beach house for the weekend, and made inappropriate comments about Plaintiff. Liquidnet’s Head of EMEA and Global sales asked Plaintiff to go home with him and made inappropriate comments about Plaintiff. These allegations are sufficient to plead that Liquidnet was permeated with pervasive discriminatory intimidation, ridicule and insult.

As to plaintiff’s claim under the New York State Human Rights Law, the court noted that plaintiff sufficiently alleged a hostile work environment under the more stringent “severe or pervasive” standard applicable to Title VII claims and not the standard under recently-amended state law (N.Y. Exec. Law § 296(1)(h)), since the relevant alleged conduct occurred before the amendment’s effective date.

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