Sex-Based Hostile Work Environment Claim Against ABC Resurrected From Dismissal

In Kirstyn Crawford v. American Broadcasting Company, et al., No. 157874/21, 2022-02552, 258, 2023 N.Y. Slip Op. 02611, 2023 WL 3468449 (N.Y.A.D. 1 Dept., May 16, 2023), the court modified the lower court’s dismissal of plaintiff’s hostile work environment and sex discrimination claims.

From the decision:

The allegations supporting plaintiff’s hostile work environment and sex discrimination claims are timely, as she has sufficiently alleged facts comprising “a single continuing pattern of unlawful conduct extending into the [limitations] period immediately preceding the filing of the complaint” (Campbell v New York City Dept. of Educ., 200 AD3d 488, 489 [1st Dept 2021], quoting Herrington v Metro–North Commuter R.R. Co., 118 AD3d 544 [1st Dept 2014] ). The complaint alleges that, following Corn’s sexual assault on plaintiff in February 2015, he continued to stare at her, lurked by her desk, made inappropriate, flirtatious comments toward her, disclosed intimate details about his marriage, and frequently pressured her to go out drinking, within the limitations period. It cannot be said that, as a matter of law, these acts were not part of a single continuing pattern of unlawful conduct supporting her hostile work environment and discrimination claims (see Petit v Department of Educ. of the City of N.Y., 177 AD3d 402, 403–404 [1st Dept 2019] ).

Moreover, under the New York City Human Rights Law (Administrative Code of City of N.Y. § 8–107) and amended New York State Human Rights Law (Executive Law § 296[h] ), the allegations that Corn sexually assaulted plaintiff in 2015 and engaged in a pattern of gender-based misconduct in the workplace, demonstrate that she was subjected to inferior terms, conditions, or privileges of employment on the basis of her gender (see Anderson v. Edmiston & Co., Inc., 131 AD3d 416, 417 [1st Dept 2015] ).

[Cleaned up.]

The court further held that the lower court properly dismissed plaintiff’s “quid pro quo” harassment claims, “as there is no allegation that Corn denied her a promotion during the limitations period, and she failed to adequately plead a pattern of unlawful conduct relating to her promotion” and “[p]laintiff’s vague allegation that she ‘attempted’ to speak to defendant ‘over the next few years’ is insufficient to support her claim.”

Finally, it held that the lower court improperly granted plaintiff’s motion to strike allegations in the amended complaint regarding defendant’s sexual assault of another ABC employee, reasoning that “[a]t this stage in the litigation, defendants failed to demonstrate that allegations concerning alleged prior bad acts should be precluded, as any evidence regarding those allegations may be relevant to plaintiff’s hostile work environment claim” and that “[s]ince hostile work environment claims are to be decided based on the totality of the circumstances, evidence relating to Corn’s prior misconduct and behavior towards other women in the workplace is relevant in this case.” [Cleaned up.]

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