Hostile Work Environment Sexual Harassment Claim Sufficiently Alleged; Allegations Included Forceful Buttocks Grabbing

In Aleasta Callahan v. Xayah Enterprises, LLC, No. 23 CV 3265, 2024 WL 2113092 (N.D.Ill. May 10, 2024), the court, inter alia, denied defendant’s motion to dismiss plaintiff’s hostile work environment sexual harassment claim under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

From the decision:

Defendants first argue that plaintiff cannot adequately plead she was subject to harassment based on a hostile work environment because her allegations stem from three unfortunate personal incidents she had with Jerry rather than her gender. According to defendants, plaintiff has not alleged that “Jerry’s alleged harassment was motivated by her gender rather than a personal dispute between the two.” This argument, which rests on a distorted reading of the complaint that minimizes the harassment plaintiff allegedly experienced and invents reasons why Jerry would have harassed her (a “personal dispute between the two,” that is never mentioned in the complaint), is beyond frivolous. In reviewing the complaint, the Court must accept plaintiff’s allegations as true and view them in the light most favorable to her. So viewed, the complaint permits a reasonable inference that Jerry repeatedly harassed plaintiff–by forcefully squeezing her buttocks and saying “that’s … going to be mine”–because she was a woman and/or for purposes of obtaining sexual gratification.

[Citations and quotation marks omitted.]

The court rejected as “irrelevant” defendant’s argument that the “alleged harassment did not expressly or implicitly condition a term of employment on submission to a sexual demand,” since plaintiff’s sexual harassment claim was based on a hostile work environment, as opposed to a quid pro quo, theory.

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