Quid Pro Quo Sexual Harassment Claim Sufficiently Alleged Against Google

In Bernhard v. Google, Inc., No. 155597/2020, 2023 WL 2989640 (N.Y. Sup Ct, New York County Apr. 14, 2023), the court, inter alia, denied defendant’s motion to dismiss plaintiff’s sexual harassment claim asserted under the New York City Human Rights Law.

The court summarized the black-letter law as follows:

“Quid pro quo sexual harassment occurs ‘when submission to or rejection of improper or unwelcome sexual conduct by an individual is used as the basis for employment decisions affecting such individual’ ” (Bouveng v NYG Capital LLC, 175 F Supp 3d 280, 311 [SD NY 2016] [citations omitted]). Claims under the NYCHRL must be given “an independent liberal construction” (Williams v New York City Hous. Auth., 61 AD3d 62, 66 [1st Dept 2009]).

Specifically, under the NYCHRL, “the primary issue for a trier of fact … is whether the plaintiff has proven by a preponderance of the evidence that she has been treated less well than other employees because of her gender” (id. at. 78; Garcia v New York City Health & Hosp. Corp., 2016 WL 4097850, * 7 [SD NY July 26, 2016, 15-CV-2119 [DAB]; Friederick v Passfeed, Inc. 2022 WL 992798, * 7 [SD NY Mar. 31, 2022, No. 21-CV-2066 (RA)] [“(a)llegations that a plaintiff was treated less well because of a discriminatory intent is sufficient to establish discrimination under the NYCHRL” [internal quotation marks and citation omitted]; Suri v Grey Global Group, Inc., 164 AD3d 108, 114 [1st Dept 2018] [internal citation omitted] [“in gender discrimination jurisprudence, such as ‘sexual harassment’ and ‘quid pro quo,’ [the court dispensed with this nomenclature] and instead focused on ‘the existence of differential treatment’ in connection with ‘unwanted gender-based conduct’ ”]. However, even under the NYCHRL’s liberal analysis, “the claim will not succeed if the offending actions are no more than petty slights or trivial inconveniences” (Franco v Hyatt Corp., 189 AD3d 569, 570 [1st Dept 2020]; Williams v New York City Hous. Auth., 61 AD3d at 80 [“petty, slight or trivial inconvenience(s)” are not actionable]).

Applying the law, the court concluded that “[b]y alleging that Katz told plaintiff that he denied her a position with Google because he was attracted to her, plaintiff pled sufficient allegations that plausibly support that she was treated less well because of her gender.”

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