Sexual Harassment Default Judgment Warranted Under “Quid Pro Quo” and “Hostile Work Environment” Theories/Paradigms

In Patrizia Pelgrift, et al., Plaintiffs, v. 335 W. 41st Tavern Inc., et al., Defendants. Additional Party Names: David Sheeran, Iryna Lutsenko, Valeriya Kolisnyk, 2017 WL 4712482, at *10 (S.D.N.Y., 2017), the court held, inter alia, that a default judgment on plaintiff’s sexual harassment claims was warranted.

The court summarized the law as follows:

Under Title VII, it is unlawful for “an employer…to discriminate against any [employee] with respect to…sex.” 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-2(a)(1). “[T]he kinds of workplace conduct that may be actionable under Title VII…include ‘[u]nwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature.’ ” Redd v. New York Div. of Parole, 678 F.3d 166, 175 (2d Cir. 2012) (quoting Meritor Sav. Bank, FSB v. Vinson, 477 U.S. 57, 65 (1986)) (alterations in original). Sexual harassment in the workplace violates Title VII’s prohibition against sex discrimination when such harassment fits into one (or both) of two paradigms: quid pro quo sexual harassment or hostile work environment. “Quid pro quo sexual harassment refers to situations in which ‘submission to or rejection of [unwelcome sexual] conduct by an individual is used as the basis for employment decisions affecting such individual…. It is enough to show that the supervisor used the employee’s acceptance or rejection of his advances as the basis for a decision affecting the compensation, terms, conditions or privileges of the employee’s job.’ ” Perks v. Town of Huntington, 251 F. Supp. 2d 1143, 1154–55 (E.D.N.Y. 2003) (quoting Karibian v. Columbia Univ., 14 F.3d 773, 777-78 (2d Cir. 1994)) (alterations in original). “Employers are strictly liable for quid pro quo harassment committed by supervisors.” Id. at 1155 (citing Faragher v. City of Boca Raton, 524 U.S. 775, 807–08 (1998) and Burlington Indus., Inc. v. Ellerth, 524 U.S. 742, 765 (1998)). The hostile work environment paradigm of sexual harassment permits a plaintiff to recover if the plaintiff can show that the harassment was so “severe or pervasive” as to “alter the conditions of [the victim’s] employment and create an abusive working environment.” Id. (quoting Meritor, 477 U.S. at 67). A corporation can be held vicariously liable for a hostile environment created by a supervisor with authority over the employee where the harassment results in a tangible undesirable employment action, such as discharge or demotion.

It next explained the facts that, in its view, the facts presented by plaintiff were sufficient to make out claims under either a “quid pro quo” or “hostile work environment” theory/paradigm.

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