Gender-Based Hostile Work Environment Claim Against Weill Cornell Medical College Survives Summary Judgment

In Espinosa v. Weill Cornell Medical College, 18 Civ. 11665, 2021 WL 1062592 (S.D.N.Y. March 19, 2021), the court, inter alia, denied defendants’ motion for summary judgment on plaintiff’s gender-based hostile work environment claim under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the New York State Human Rights Law, and the New York City Human Rights Law. (I addressed the court’s decision denying defendant’s motion for summary judgment on plaintiff’s “adverse action” gender discrimination claim here.)

From the decision:

Defendant has failed to establish that there is no dispute as to any material facts regarding whether Espinosa was subjected to a hostile work environment because she is a woman. Espinosa has presented sufficient evidence—for instance, her allegation that “on many occasions” Huntley “add[ed] very racey videos to the end of his meetings,” Espinosa Aff. ¶ 5, and that Huntley screamed, banged his hands on the table, and used a patronizing voice, more towards her more than the rest of the team, Def. 56.1 ¶¶ 100–01; Pl. 56.1 ¶¶ 160–61; EEOC Charge ¶¶ 18–19, 21, 24–30—such that a reasonable jury crediting her version of events could find that she was the victim of a hostile work environment based on her gender. In addition, a rational fact-finder could conclude that Espinosa subjectively experienced a hostile work environment. She perceived that she was being treated differently because of her appearance. She testified that Huntley hired women “because they were beautiful, cute or whatever.” Espinosa Tr. at 322:21–24. She also testified that Huntley hired a female friend of his as a project manager, and that, “at some point during [a] meeting it came out that she was engaged or she had a boyfriend or something,” and Huntley appeared disappointed. Id. at 322:4–20. She noticed that women Huntley hired were all young and white, unlike her. EEOC Charge ¶ 79. Espinosa states that she was “humiliated” and that she wondered if there was “something wrong with [her].” Espinosa Aff. ¶¶ 6, 15. She states that Huntley scrutinized her requests to work from home more than her male colleagues’ requests, id. ¶ 10, and that she “tried to avoid him and stopped speaking at meetings,” EEOC Charge ¶ 30. She averred that “she almost never used her sick days … because she was afraid of … Huntley’s anger.” Id. ¶ 41. The “three years of belittling and degrading” behavior Espinosa describes, id. ¶ 79, shows that the allegedly unwarranted abuse she was subjected to was severe and permeated her workplace. Espinosa also alleges that Dickinson was aware of and witnessed Huntley’s behavior, but he failed to take appropriate corrective action. Id. ¶¶ 35–39, 46–50, 55, 69–74. Accordingly, there is a triable issue of fact as to whether Huntley’s behavior can be imputed to Defendant.

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