Sexual Harassment Claims Against United Pharm USA et al Survive Summary Judgment

In Perez v. United Pharm USA Inc., 2018 NY Slip Op 30273(U) (Sup. Ct. Suffolk Cty. Dkt. No. 12-30974 Jan. 19, 2018), the court, inter alia, denied defendants’ motion for summary judgment on plaintiff’s sexual harassment claims.

The court summarized plaintiff’s evidence as follows:

Plaintiff testified that during her period of employment she was constantly subjected to AbdelMaksoud’s sexual advances, inappropriate conversations and unwelcome offensive touching. She avers that Abdel-Maksoud stored shoes that he changed into at work under her desk and upon retrieving them would look up her skirt/dress and once touched her legs. When she moved his shoes to a different location, he put the shoes back under her desk and insisted that they remain there. Plaintiff also testified that Abdel-Maksoud brushed the front of his body against her buttocks, touched her breasts, suggested she wear low cut blouses and shorter skirts and even offered to purchase such clothing for her. She testified that one day he left Victoria Secret’s coupons on her desk and told her not to mention it to her husband. Plaintiff testified that anytime Abdel-Maksoud moved from his computer workstation in the pharmacy, she became nervous and guarded as she never knew when he would say something to her that was offensive or attempt to touch her.

Plaintiff further testified that Abdel-Maksoud arranged for her to go on a business trip out of the country, and sometime later advised her he would accompany her, and told her not to tell her husband. When she told Abdel-Maksoud she was not comfortable traveling with him and would not keep the business travel a secret from her husband, Abdel-Maksoud canceled the trip. Plaintiff testified he often insisted on speaking with her in the vermin-infested basement away from anyone else’s presence at which time he would have inappropriate conversations with her. Plaintiff also testified that every morning, in an area in the back of the pharmacy out of the earshot of other employees, Abdel-Maksoud would give her daily assignments. During several of these conversations, Abdel-Maksoud told her while motioning with his arms to the pharmacy, she “could have all of this.” Plaintiff testified she interpreted the offer as one of financial benefits in exchange for a sexual relationship with him. In other conversations Abdel-Maksoud allegedly told plaintiff she had to like him to continue her employment, that she was paying too much attention to her husband and not enough to him, and that she had to choose between him and her husband.

Applying the law, the court held:

In the case at bar, even assuming that defendants met their initial burden, and viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to plaintiff …, a reasonable person could find that Abdel-Makoud’s conduct was offensive, severe and per[vasive] and that he used his position to intimidate plaintiff, and made unwelcome advances towards her thereby creating an objectively hostile or abusive environment in violation of the Human Rights Law… . Similarly, a fact finder could determine that plaintiffs proof overlaps both theories of quid pro quo and hostile work environment… . Abdel-Maksoud’s denial that he engaged in any of the alleged conduct raises credibility issue that the court may not decide on a motion for summary judgment… .

United Pharma can be held liable for the discriminatory conduct by Abdel-Maksoud, as he is the sole owner and CEO of United Pharma… . In addition, Abdel-Maksoud can be held individually liable to plaintiff based on his ownership interest in United Pharma.

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