“Quid Pro Quo” Sexual Harassment Claim Was Sufficiently Presented to the EEOC, Court Holds

From Mikolaenko v. New York University, 2017 WL 4174928 (S.D.N.Y. Sept. 7, 2017) (J. Batts):

Defendant also moves to dismiss on the grounds that Plaintiff failed to exhaust her administrative remedies because she first included allegations of a quid pro quo sexual relationship in her Complaint and did not include related allegations in her EEOC charge.

Prior to bringing suit in federal court under Title VII, a plaintiff must first exhaust her administrative remedies by presenting the claims that form the basis of her suit to the EEOC. See Littlejohn v. City of New York, 795 F.3d 297, 322 (2d Cir. 2015). Even if a claim was not first presented to the EEOC, a plaintiff may still pursue that claim if it is reasonably related to the claims that were raised before the EEOC. Id. “A claim is reasonably related to the filed claim ‘if the conduct complained of would fall within the scope of the EEOC investigation which can reasonably be expected to grow out of the charge that was made.’ ” Littlejohn v. City of New York, 795 F.3d 297, 322 (2d Cir. 2015) (quoting Deravin v. Kerik, 335 F.3d 195, 200–01 (2d Cir. 2003). In determining relatedness, courts look to the factual allegations in the EEOC charge itself. Id. “[I]f the factual allegations in the EEOC charge ‘suggest [two] forms of discrimination’— even though the charge itself specifies only one— so that the agency receives adequate notice to investigate discrimination on both bases, the claims are reasonably related to each other.” Id. (second alteration in original) (quoting Deravin, 335 F.3d at 202).

In this case, even without using the label “quid pro quo” Plaintiff includes a number of references to a quid pro quo relationship in her EEOC charge. For example, the EEOC charge references Defendant Zagzag’s alleged termination of a female employee who refused to have sex with him (Defs.’ Mot. Dismiss, Ex. B ¶ 21) and Defendant Zagzag’s comment that Plaintiff’s position would be more “stable and secure” if she had sex with him. (Id. ¶ 27.) Moreover, her quid pro quo allegations are inherently intertwined with her sexual harassment allegations such that the EEOC would receive adequate notice to investigate. See Carrero v. N.Y.C. Hous. Auth., 890 F.2d 569, 579 (2d Cir. 1989) (“Hostile environment and quid pro quo harassment causes of action are not always clearly distinct and separate. The discrimination which gives rise to them is not neatly compartmentalized but, as this case demonstrates, the two types of claims may be complementary to one another.”); Schiano v. Quality Payroll Sys., Inc., 445 F.3d 597, 604 (2d Cir. 2006) (allowing plaintiff to proceed on appeal with a quid pro quo sexual harassment claim that was characterized as a hostile work environment claim in the district court).14 Both involve unwanted sexual contact with Defendant Zagzag; the difference is whether or not Plaintiff might be terminated or otherwise have her job conditions altered. Accordingly, Plaintiff exhausted her administrative remedies.


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