2d Circuit Vacates Summary Judgment Dismissal of Title VII Hostile Work Environment Claim

In Moll v. Telesector Resources Group, Inc., No. 20-3599, 2024 WL 820179 (2d Cir. Feb. 28, 2024), the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit vacated the lower court’s order dismissing plaintiff’s claim of hostile work environment sexual harassment asserted under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

From the decision:

In sum, Moll proffered evidence that overtly sexual or sexist comments, sexual innuendos, and gender-based disparagements were regularly directed at women in Verizon’s enterprise solutions group or made about women in general–such statements being made in the woman’s own office, or near a woman’s desk, or to a woman in a manager’s office, or about a woman amid persons in a casual gathering in a common office area, or in conference calls or meetings among co-workers, or in a van heading for a staff outing, or in a buffet line at an office party, or in meetings with clients. She proffered evidence that most managers did nothing to discourage that objectionable conduct–and that some managers participated in such conduct. Perhaps most troubling, as discussed above, Moll pointed to evidence that Irving–who as her co-worker had harassed her with sexually connotative comments and requests to come to his hotel room–after becoming her manager, left her a note saying that he “thought about [her] when he was in the shower.” And as her manager, he insisted that she communicate with him only in person, demanded that she stay at the office alone with him late at night, and followed her to client lunches against her wishes because he wanted to “develop” her. Irving attended an HR awareness presentation at which he simply laughed throughout. Although Moll complained to HR about Irving’s demonstration of contempt for the HR training presentation, Verizon did nothing in response.

The district court ruled that the incidents that Moll experienced or knew about were “puerile” and “offensive,” but found that they were not “humiliating” and “did not unreasonably interfere with Plaintiff’s work.” Moll IV, 2020 WL 5593845, at *15. Viewing the evidence as a whole in the light most favorable to Moll, we cannot agree that no reasonable person could find the working environment hostile and abusive, or that no reasonable person could find that that environment adversely affected her ability to concentrate on simply performing her job well.

The court concluded by noting that “[r]ational jurors may disagree as to whether these incidents would negatively alter the working conditions of a reasonable employee” but that “the potential for disagreement renders summary judgment inappropriate.” [Ellipsis deleted.]

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