Sexual Harassment, Battery, Discrimination, and Retaliation Jury Verdict Upheld Against Montefiore Medical Center

In Madrigal v. Montefiore Medical Center et al., No. 12306, 2020-00608, 307949/10E, 2021 N.Y. Slip Op. 00526, 2021 WL 329412 (N.Y.A.D. 1 Dept., Feb. 02, 2021), the court, inter alia, affirmed a jury verdict for plaintiff on her battery, employment discrimination, hostile work environment/sexual harassment, and retaliation claims.

From the decision:

The evidence at trial supports the verdict for plaintiff on her claim for common-law battery based on an incident in which the jury found that defendant Ramos struck plaintiff with a telephone handset, and that verdict is not against the weight of the evidence (see Rodriguez v. New York City Tr. Auth., 67 AD3d 511 [1st Dept 2009]; Jaffe v National League for Nursing, 222 A.D.2d 233 [1st Dept 1995]; Trott v. Merit Dept. Store, 106 A.D.2d 158, 160 [1st Dept 1985] ).

The evidence supports the verdict that defendants created a hostile work environment in violation of the State and City HRL by subjecting plaintiff to a years-long onslaught of vulgar ethnic slurs, accompanied by demeaning work assignments not given to others (see Sims v Trustees of Columbia Univ. in the City of N.Y., 168 AD3d 622, 623 [1st Dept 2019]; Gonzalez v. EVG, Inc., 123 AD3d 486, 487 [1st Dept 2014] ).

The trial evidence amply supports the jury’s verdict in favor of plaintiff on her retaliation claim. Plaintiff engaged in protected activity by repeatedly complaining to her employer that supervisors were discriminating against her, and, indeed, by commencing the instant action. The remaining prongs of the cause of action are met by the fact that, as defendants admit, they terminated her because of her repeated complaints (see Forrest v. Jewish Guild for the Blind, 3 NY3d 295, 312–313 [2004]; Fletcher v. Dakota, Inc., 99 AD3d 43, 51–53 [1st Dept 2012] ).

*2 Defendants’ argument that there was no evidence at trial that their reason for terminating her was pretextual is unavailing. Evidence of pretext was adduced at trial, in the form of a human resource administrator’s internal email stating that she was not comfortable with the company’s position that plaintiff was terminated because of her “false accusations.”

[W]e conclude that plaintiff’s testimony that defendant Frantz Terlonge lewdly suggested that she sit on his lap, and that a few days later, while plaintiff was reaching into the breakroom refrigerator, he approached her from behind, wedged himself against her, and rubbed his penis against her backside, amply supported her claim of sexual harassment and gender discrimination. Based on that evidence, we cannot say that “there is no rational process by which” the jury could have found in favor of plaintiff (Szczerbiak v. Pilat, 90 N.Y.2d 553, 556 [1997] ).

The court also upheld substantial damage awards for plaintiff, which I will address in a separate post.

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