Teacher’s Sexual Harassment Case Continues Against Upstate School District

In Root v. Salamanca Central School District, No. 20-00123, 882, 2021 N.Y. Slip Op. 01634, 2021 WL 1049730 (N.Y.A.D. 4 Dept. Mar. 19, 2021), a sexual harassment case, the court upheld a lower court decision denying defendants’ motion to dismiss plaintiff’s claims against defendants (but modified the order to dismiss plaintiff’s amended complaint against individual defendant Robert J. Breidenstein).

Initially, the court rejected defendants’ argument that plaintiff’s Notice of Claim was deficient vis-a-vis her hostile work environment claim:

We reject defendants’ contention that the court should have granted the motion with respect to the first cause of action, asserting a hostile work environment under Executive Law § 296 (1) (a), on the ground that plaintiff did not adequately raise that cause of action in her notice of claim. Initially, we agree with defendants that plaintiff’s cause of action under section 296 (1) (a) is subject to Education Law § 3813 (1), which broadly requires the filing of a notice of claim as a condition precedent to an “action … for any cause whatever” (see United States v New York City Dept. of Educ., 2017 WL 1319695, *1 [SD NY, Apr. 4, 2017, Nos. 16-CV-4291 (LAK), 16-CV-4844 (LAK)]; see also Peritz v Nassau County. Bd. of Coop. Educ. Servs., 2019 WL 2410816, *2-3 [ED NY, June 7, 2019, No. 16-CV-5478 (DRH) (AYS)]). Contrary to defendants’ contention, however, we conclude that plaintiff’s notice of claim sufficiently informed defendants of the hostile work environment claim. While plaintiff could have provided more information about the precise nature of the claim, the notice of claim included a detailed factual chronology and a description of her complaints that indirectly described a hostile work environment legal theory based on sexual harassment (see generally Gonzalez v Povoski, 149 AD3d 1472, 1474 [4th Dept 2017]).

Proceeding to the merits, the court explained:

We further conclude that the court properly denied defendants’ motion insofar as it sought to dismiss the first cause of action against the District and the School Board for failure to state a cause of action (see generally Leon v Martinez, 84 NY2d 83, 87-88 [1994]). Plaintiff alleged that Long subjected her to “unwelcome sexually harassing conduct and comments” during her employment and that Long’s behavior became physical on at least one occasion. Plaintiff further alleged that defendants effectively acquiesced to Long’s conduct inasmuch as they did not reasonably investigate or take corrective action after plaintiff reported Long’s inappropriate and offensive conduct to the appropriate representative at the District.

The court also held that plaintiff’s complaint “included allegations that defendants failed to properly train and supervise Long even after plaintiff reported his conduct” and thus “alleged facts sufficient to state a cause of action for negligent hiring, training, supervision, and retention.”

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