Quid Pro Quo Sexual Harassment Claim, Based on Alleged Conduct of Héctor O’Neill-García, Survives Dismissal

In Díaz-Zayas v. Municipality of Guaynabo, et al, No. 18-1668 (RAM), 2022 WL 1322657 (D.Puerto Rico April 27, 2022), the court, inter alia, denied defendant’s Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss plaintiff’s quid pro quo sexual harassment claim asserted under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

The court summarized the factual allegations, in part, as follows:

Díaz was first hired by the Guaynabo Municipal Police Department in 2009. At that time, she was a single mother with a special needs child. Shortly after starting her position, Díaz approached the then-mayor of Guaynabo, O’Neill, to inquire about potential assistance for her special needs daughter. O’Neill invited Díaz for several lunches and then dinners. Plaintiffs allege that after an unspecified number of dinners, O’Neill pressured Díaz to have sex with him. Díaz claims she only acceded because she was afraid to lose her job if she refused the mayor’s sexual advances. Plaintiffs further allege that Díaz engaged in sexual relations with O’Neill until she ended the relationship in October 2014 and that during that time, O’Neill physically and sexually abused her.

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Plaintiff also alleged, for example, that O’Neill “harassed and threatened Plaintiffs by repeatedly screaming at Díaz over the phone” and that on one occasion “Díaz walked into her office and encountered O’Neill masturbating while sitting in her chair.”

In assessing plaintiff’s quid pro quo claim, the court explained:

Quid pro quo sexual harassment violates Title VII when “an employee or supervisor uses his or her superior position to extract sexual favors from a subordinate employee, and if denied those favors, retaliates by taking action adversely affecting the subordinate’s employment.” Valentin-Almeyda v. Municipality Of Aguadilla, 447 F.3d 85, 94 (1st Cir. 2006) (internal quotation marks and citations omitted).

Díaz undoubtedly alleges facts supporting such a claim. (See Docket No. 51 ¶ 20 (“Officer Díaz did not want to have sex with Mayor O’Neill … but she was afraid that he would fire her if she refused, so she gave in, against her will.”); see also id. ¶ 35 (“When Officer Díaz began dating Sgt. Reyes, Defendants’ retaliation against her … for ending her relationship with Mayor O’Neill went into high gear.”)).

Additionally, unlike the hostile environment claim discussed above, this claim is timely. As noted above, Díaz filed her Second EEOC Charge on August 3, 2017. (Docket No. 31-1). Though she ended her relationship with O’Neill back in October 2014, the Amended Complaint outlines a years-long retaliation scheme that directly resulted from that event. (Docket No. 51 ¶ 26). This scheme continued through October 7, 2016 — 300 days before Díaz filed her Second EEOC Charge — and allegedly continued through the date the Amended Complaint was filed. (See id. ¶¶ 217-79). Construing the well-pleaded facts in the Amended Complaint in the light most favorable to Plaintiffs, as this Court must at this stage of the proceedings, see Ocasio-Hernandez, 640 F.3d at 7, the alleged post-October 2016 conduct is sufficiently tied to Díaz ending her relationship with O’Neill to bar dismissal of this claim. And, because there is no requirement that recent discriminatory acts be explicitly based upon sex, the quid pro quo claim differs from the hostile work environment claim and is better supported by the allegations in the Amended Complaint.

Further, the Court finds that Díaz has satisfied the above-described presentment requirement for this claim, barring its dismissal at this stage of the proceedings. While the Second EEOC Charge only alleges retaliation for filing the First EEOC Charge, the alleged retaliatory scheme designed to punish Díaz for filing her previous EEOC Charge appears to be a continuation of the alleged scheme to punish her for ending her relationship with O’Neill. Therefore, the relevant acts in the Amended Complaint supporting a quid pro quo harassment claim constitute “collateral acts” that bear a close relation to the allegations in the administrative charge. Montalvo-Figueroa, 414 F. Supp. 3d at 237.

Thus, the Court finds that the Amended Complaint states a plausible and timely claim for quid pro quo harassment against the Municipality based on O’Neill and other city employees’ retaliation for Díaz ending her relationship with O’Neill. The Municipality’s Motion to Dismiss is accordingly DENIED as to Díaz’s quid pro quo Title VII harassment claim.

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The court did, however, dismiss plaintiff’s hostile work environment sexual harassment claim, on the ground that that claim was time-barred.

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