Sexual Harassment / Hostile Work Environment Claim Survives Dismissal [Pecile v. Titan Capital Group]

In Pecile v. Titan Capital Group, LLC, 2018 WL 2100456 (N.Y. Sup. Ct. N.Y. Cty. Index No. 110490/2010, May 3, 2018), the court, inter alia, denied defendant’s motion for summary judgment on plaintiffs’ sexual harassment claims under the NYC Human Rights Law.

From the decision:

The Court finds that there are issues of fact with respect to Culicea’s claims for a hostile work environment against both Russell and Marc. With respect to Russell, Culicea testified that “Well he was making me feel very uncomfortable because of the sexual harassment. For example, any time that I would speak with him, he would just stare at my breasts as he spoke to me. He would stare at my behind as I walked away, even if he had to turn his head and do it the whole way that he was walking down the hallway” (Culicea’s tr at 117).

She also testified that Russell “would ask me once investors came into the office to set them up in the conference room and to entertain them using my womanly powers. He said this numerous times in a variety of different ways” (id. at 118). Culicea alleged that Russell “told me to use my woman’s advances, my sexual nature, to entertain clients” (id. at 121).

It is for a jury to decide whether this conduct (assuming the jury credits Culicea’s account) created an abusive work environment. Defendants reliance on an email from Culicea in which she says the job was “comfortable” and that she left Titan because her job was crazy is not dispositive. Culicea testified that it was “very embarrassing to tell people that you work somewhere where you’re being sexually harassed” (id. at 106). The fact is that Culicea worked as an executive assistant for Russell- this type of job required personal interaction with Russell on a daily basis. Unsurprisingly, she testified that she would not feel comfortable complaining to Russell because he was the source of the problem (id. at 116).
*3 With respect to Marc, Culicea also raises an issue of fact. Culicea testified that Marc sent aggressive emails and phone calls “right after he asked me out for drinks and I told him that I didn’t think that was a good idea” (Culicea tr at 323). Culicea testified that Marc’s behavior was so bad that she had her first panic attack at Titan (id. at 322). She claimed that Marc “sexually harassed me by starting to treat me differently after I declined his advance” (id. at 323). Culicea also recounted an incident where she was asked to join in company dinners and “Marc told me that I was invited because of my appearance and the former secretary was not invited because she was a fat ass”

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