Motion to Dismiss Claims for Relief Denied (Or: What Happens When Your Boss Tries to Kiss You on Your Neck, Twice?)

In January, a District Judge denied a motion to dismiss claims for relief in an a major sexual harassment and wage and hour case. Let’s take a quick look at the background of this case and extract a few lessons for you, if you’ve experienced sexual harassment, gender discrimination, or other unfair treatment at your workplace.

According to the allegations in this case, the defendant male worked as an IT supervisor. A female IT associate started working for the firm. The supervisor invited her to go to a bar after work hours. After accepting this invitation, she told her supervisor that she had been a victim of domestic violence that had left her feeling awful and physically and emotionally traumatized.

Once they were at the bar, the interactions took a bizarre turn, according to the complainant’s allegations.

The defendant stroked plaintiff’s hand in what was allegedly a “sexually suggestive fashion,” prompting her to leave. The defendant then allegedly grabbed her, and tried to give her a hug and a kiss her on her neck. She pulled away, but he pulled her closer and kissed her on the neck.

As a result of this encounter, the female employee claimed to have experienced severe emotional distress. Her psychologist suggested that she should not return to work because of the potential for adverse emotional and health consequences.

The defendants fought this claim on a variety of grounds, but the District Judge did not find their arguments compelling. The plaintiff filed for seven claims of relief including claims under the Fair Labor Standards Act, New York Minimum Wage Act, and New York Labor Law, suggesting that the defendant had failed to pay her overtime, among other allegations.

The defendants countered that “the defendant’s conduct was [not] motivated by [the] plaintiff’s gender.” The court begged to differ: a “male supervisor asked a female employee out to a bar, stroked her hand in a sexual manner and twice attempted (and once succeeded) to kiss her on the neck… [ask] any reasonable observer what motivated this encounter [and they would] almost certainly answer the male supervisor’s actions were prompted by the female employee’s gender, not by her interest in collecting stamps or her affection for a particular sports team.”

Even in situations that seem like (and are!) clear violations of law, the defense can put up surprisingly stiff legal resistance. Protect your rights and ensure a fair resolution to your traumatizing employment situation. Connect with the team here at Joseph & Kirschenbaum at (212) 688-5640 or info@jhllp.com today for a free consultation.