Math Teacher’s Retaliation Claim, Arising From Sexual Harassment Complaint, Survives Dismissal

In Garcia v. Yonkers Bd. of Educ., No. 15 CIV. 0767 (NSR), 2016 WL 3064116 (S.D.N.Y. May 27, 2016), the court granted in part and denied in part defendants’ motion to dismiss plaintiff’s sexual harassment and retaliation claims.

In this case, plaintiff (a high school mathematics teacher) alleged in her federal court complaint that she was subject to sexual harassment by her co-worker, and then terminated in retaliation for her complaints. The court held, among other things, that plaintiff stated a retaliation claim under Title VII.

“In order to state a claim for retaliation, a Plaintiff must allege that: “(1) she was engaged in protected activity; (2) the employer was aware of that activity; (3) the employee suffered a materially adverse action; and (4) there was a causal connection between the protected activity and that adverse action.”

Four months separated plaintiff’s protected activity (filing a police report) and an adverse action (filing of disciplinary charges). Based on this, the court concluded: “Plaintiff has, in fact, alleged a causal connection based on temporal proximity, and she is not required to provide other evidence of causation to survive a motion to dismiss.”

The court also rejected defendants’ argument that plaintiff’s retaliation claim should be dismissed due to fact findings at her 3020-a hearing, resulting in a finding that defendants had just cause to terminate plaintiff.  In addition to noting the fact that the hearing officer did not consider plaintiff’s claims of sexual harassment, discrimination, or retaliation, the court cited the rule that “[t]ermination for cause does not preclude the possibility of termination motivated by unlawful animus.”

The court dismissed plaintiff’s Title VII discrimination claim as time-barred, since all of the alleged discriminatory acts occurred before plaintiff’s transfer (which is a “discrete act” not subject to the “continuing violation” exception).

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