Court Upholds Jury’s Verdict that Male Plaintiff Endured Quid Pro Quo Sexual Harassment by Female Boss

In Lashley v. New Life Bus. Inst., Inc., No. 13 CIV. 2683 BMC, 2015 WL 1014128 (E.D.N.Y. Mar. 9, 2015), the Eastern District of New York upheld a jury verdict in favor of Corey Lashley on his quid pro quo and hostile work environment sexual harassment claims.

In this case, plaintiff Corey Lashley alleged, among other things, that he was fired after rejecting the sexual advances of his female boss (Flynn).

Judge Cogan wrote:

Ultimately, plaintiff is able to prevail on his quid pro quosexual harassment claim because, viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to plaintiff, the jury reasonably found a causal connection between plaintiff’s termination at NLBI and his rejection of defendant Flynn’s sexual advances. First, a causal connection between plaintiff’s termination and his rejection of defendant Flynn’s sexual advances can be inferred by the short time period between the two events. Plaintiff began to indicate to defendant Flynn that he “was feeling bad” about their relationship and that he wanted to stop seeing her around the beginning of May. However, he continued to have sex with defendant Flynn. Eventually they broke up, and defendant Flynn forced plaintiff to go on an unpaid two-week vacation so she could “get over” him, though she then rescinded requirement and allowed plaintiff to come back to work. Shortly thereafter, on July 2nd, plaintiff was terminated. The couple of weeks between their breakup and plaintiff’s termination could lead the jury to infer that defendants fired plaintiff due to his refusal to have sex with defendant Flynn. …

Second, and perhaps more importantly, defendant Flynn made an explicit threat to plaintiff. Once plaintiff stopped seeing defendant Flynn, she told him that she hated him and “hate[d] that [she] ha[d] to see [him] everyday.” After plaintiff refused to go to defendant Flynn’s house and have sex with her, she sent a text message to him stating, “you should just quit, it is not going to be nice.” Plaintiff interpreted this text message to mean that he should just quit working at NLBI, because she had the power to make his life difficult as a result of him not continuing a romantic relationship with her. The jury was entitled to credit this testimony by plaintiff, as well as take note of the fact that plaintiff was ultimately fired. Where the employer ma[kes] and threaten[s] to make decisions affecting the terms and conditions of [plaintiff’s] employment based upon [his] submission to h[er] sexual advances, the employer’s conduct constitutes quid pro quo harassment.

It also held that it was reasonable for the jury to find in plaintiff’s favor on his hostile work environment claim.

The court did, however, set aside the jury’s verdict in plaintiff’s favor on his retaliation claim, on the ground that the rejection of an employer’s sexual advance does not qualify as “protected activity” which must be shown to make out a claim of retaliation.

Finally, the court upheld the jury’s awards of $10,000 in compensatory damages and $30,000 in punitive damages.

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