Sexual Harassment (Hostile Work Environment) Claim Proceeds Against Individual Defendant on “Aiding and Abetting” / “Negligent Supervision” Theory

In Campo v. City of New York et al, 2022 WL 970730 (E.D.N.Y. March 31, 2022), the court, inter alia, denied defendants’ motion for summary judgment as to several claims, including plaintiff’s “supervisory liability” claim against several individual defendants in connection with her sexual harassment claim.

This decision is instructive as to how courts assess claims of individual liability for sexual harassment/hostile work environment.

For example, as to one such individual defendant, Holmes, the court concluded:

The court next considers whether a reasonable jury could find that Inspector Holmes “aided and abetted” the City in the creation of a hostile work environment on the basis of sex. There is no evidence in the record suggesting that Inspector Holmes discriminated against Campo on the basis of her sex or actually participated in any gender-motivated or sexually motivated conduct. There is, however, evidence sufficient to support a finding that Holmes caused the creation of a hostile work environment through her grossly negligent supervision of subordinates who sexually harassed Campo. See supra Part III.B.1.b.i. The Second Circuit has not explicitly stated that grossly negligent supervision constitutes “actual participation” under the NYSHRL and NYCHRL. However, in the context of § 1983 supervisory liability claims, which require the supervisor’s “personal involvement” in an alleged constitutional deprivation, it is well-settled in this Circuit that a plaintiff can “demonstrate[ ] such personal involvement” by establishing that the supervisor “was grossly negligent in supervising subordinates who committed the wrongful acts.” Provost, 262 F.3d at 154. From this, the court concludes that a plaintiff can demonstrate “actual participation” under the NYSHRL and NYCHRL as well by establishing grossly negligent supervision, since “actual participation” and “personal involvement” are sufficiently analogous legal concepts. Indeed, in Feingold v. New York, the Second Circuit drew a parallel between NYSHRL and NYCHRL “aiding and abetting” claims and § 1983 supervisory liability claims, holding that satisfaction of the former implies satisfaction of the latter. See 366 F.3d at 159 (“We have earlier found that Feingold has presented sufficient evidence to permit the conclusion that all of the named individual defendants were personally involved in behavior unlawful under the NYSHRL. It follows that he has also presented sufficient evidence … to permit the conclusion that they were personally involved in behavior that violates Section 1983.”). Because Inspector Holmes was “personally involved” in the creation of a hostile work environment under § 1983 due to her grossly negligent supervision, it follows that she “actually participated” in that conduct under the NYSHRL and NYCHRL as well.

Based on this, the court denied the City Defendants’ motion for summary judgment on the claims against individual defendant Holmes.

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