Quid Pro Quo Sexual Harassment Claim Plausibly Alleged; Court Cites “Subtext” of “Suggestive” Text Messages & Photographs

In Jacobs v. Hudson Valley Family Physicians, PLLC, 1:22-CV-1184, 2024 WL 1200002 (N.D.N.Y. March 20, 2024), the court, inter alia, denied defendant’s motion to dismiss plaintiff’s quid pro quo sexual harassment claim asserted under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the New York State Human Rights Law.

From the decision:

Plaintiffs allege that Lisa received text messages and photographs from Elashker in 2020. According to plaintiffs, Elashker’s photographs depicted him relaxing, drinking alcohol, or posing “suggestively.” Elashker allegedly sent text message accompanying the images stating that had Lisa “played her cards right,” she could have been enjoying these experiences with him. Plaintiffs do not allege that these messages contained outright requests for sexual contact. However, plaintiffs allege that Lisa reasonably understood the subtext of Elashker’s messages and photographs—including suggestive poses—to be an invitation for sex. As plaintiffs point out, these messages were sent on the heels of Elashker’s decade-long history of propositioning Lisa to engage in a sexual relationship. Therefore, for the purposes of this motion to dismiss, plaintiffs have plausibly alleged that Elashker sent Lisa invitations to engage in a sexual relationship with him.

Plaintiffs have also plausibly alleged that rejecting Elashker’s advances altered the terms and conditions of Lisa’s employment—she was terminated. Plaintiffs claim that after Lisa informed Elashker that she did not want to interact with him outside of work, Elashker scolded her for “not having his back.” Lisa was terminated the same day. It is not implausible that Elashker was referring to Lisa’s decision to reject his advances when he stated his reason for terminating her after over ten years with HVFP. [Citations omitted.]

Based on this, the court held that plaintiff plausibly alleged her claim.

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