Hostile Work Environment Sexual Harassment Claim Sufficiently Alleged; Question of Severity or Pervasiveness Best Evaluated at Summary Judgment

In Painadath v. Melissa Lattanzio, et al, No. 22-3604, 2024 WL 1836500 (E.D.Pa. April 26, 2024), the court, inter alia, denied defendant’s motion to dismiss plaintiff’s hostile work environment sexual harassment claim.

From the decision:

Construed liberally, Painadath pleads a hostile work environment sexual harassment claim. Painadath alleges that Mrs. Susan made a sexual advance on him by giving him a non-verbal gesture and telling him she would “secure [his] job but [he] would have to lie down for [her].” As such, Paindath has pled facts indicating he was harassed “because of his sex.” Moody v. Atl. City Bd. of Educ., 870 F.3d 206, 213 (3d Cir. 2017) (comments about the plaintiff’s body establish that harassment occurred because of his sex). Painadath also alleges he was detrimentally affected by his work environment, as he was stressed, his relationships with loved ones soured and he stopped watching sports and exercising. A reasonable person could also find an unwanted sexual advance by a supervisor to be humiliating or offensive. Painadath further alleges Mrs. Susan was a supervisor, thus pleading the existence of respondeat superior liability. And though the bar for establishing “severe or pervasive conduct is high, [c]ourts in this Circuit have … shown a reluctance to dismiss a complaint at the 12(b)(6) stage when the primary challenge to the hostile work environment claim is whether or not the conduct in question is severe [or] pervasive. The question of whether allegations in a complaint are ultimately sufficient to prove that the … harassing discrimination was severe or pervasive is a question best saved for summary judgment. [Citations, internal quotation marks omitted.]

The court further noted that while plaintiff does not proceed under a quid pro quo sexual harassment theory, he does allege that he was placed on administrative leave days after refusing an apparent supervisor’s sexual advance, suggesting that had he done so, the court would have held that this claim’s elements were likewise satisfied.

Share This: