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Uyar v. Seli

United States District Court, D. Connecticut

March 31, 2018

ASLI UYAR, Plaintiff,
v.
EMRI SELI and YALE UNIVERSITY, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OF DECISION GRANTING EMRI SELI'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT [DKT. NO. 62] AND GRANTING IN PART AND DENYING IN PART YALE UNIVERSITY'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT [DKT. NO. 63]

          Hon. Vanessa L. Bryant United States District Judge.

         I. Introduction

         Now before the Court are Defendants Emri Seli's (“Seli”) and Yale University's (“Yale”) motions for summary judgment as to all pending claims. Plaintiff Asli Uyar brings this case under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e, et seq., alleging that Yale is vicariously liable for sexual harassment perpetrated by Seli. Plaintiff also initially raised claims for Title VII retaliation and common law negligent supervision against Yale and defamation and invasion of privacy against Seli. However, she has not opposed summary judgment on any of these claims. Consequently, the Court GRANTS Seli's Motion for Summary Judgment in full, and GRANTS Yale's Motion for Summary Judgment as to the retaliation and negligent supervision claims. For the reasons that follow, the Court DENIES Yale's motion as to Plaintiff's sexual harassment claims.

         II. Facts

         A. Background

         Plaintiff is a Turkish national with a Ph.D. in computer science. [Dkt. No. 41 ¶¶ 4-5]. Seli is a Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology and Reproductive Sciences at the Yale School of Medicine. Id. ¶ 7. Plaintiff first met Seli in Turkey where they discussed possible post-doctoral opportunities for Plaintiff. [Pl. Dep. at 50-51]. Plaintiff joined Yale on August 17, 2011 as a Post-Doctoral Fellow in Seli's laboratory, and she was granted a visa to work in the United States in this position. [Def. Exh. B; Def. Exh. C at YALE 000283-84; Def. Exh. E].

         In 2013, Plaintiff received a second one-year appointment from Yale as a Post-Doctoral Associate, with a salary of $46, 686.70. [Def. Exh. E; Def. Exh. F]. While Plaintiff's position was initially funded by a grant from an organization in Turkey, by 2013-2014, Plaintiff's position was entirely funded by grants obtained and controlled by Seli. [Pl. Exh. A at 4]. Seli had complete discretion to hire a post-doctoral researcher and also decided whether to renew a post-doctoral researcher's position. [Taylor Dep. at 32-34].

         In her roles as a Post-Doctoral Fellow and Post-Doctoral Associate, Plaintiff performed bioinformatics research in the area of early embryo genetics in Seli's laboratory. [Def. Exh. C at YALE 000283-84; Dkt. No. 41 ¶ 6]. Seli was Plaintiff's Principal Investigator, but her field of study was distinct from his, and she worked largely unsupervised. [Pl. Dep. at 99, 177; Seli Dep. at 18-23]. Seli was physically present in his lab very rarely as he had both teaching and clinical responsibilities for which he was responsible. [Pl. Dep. at 86-87; Seli Dep. at 10].

         B. Plaintiff's Relationship with Seli

         In the summer of 2012, Plaintiff and Seli began a sexual relationship that lasted nearly two years. [Pl. Dep. at 25]. Plaintiff has described the relationship as consensual and romantic, and frequently told Seli that she loved him. [Pl. Dep. at 25-26, 48-49; 55-57, 128-29; Def. Exh. G. at MSG000007, 16-17, 18-19, 21, 24-25, 28-35, 37, 40, 43, 46-47, 50-51, 53, 61, 63, 68-71, 73-74, 76, 80, 85, 89, 92-93, 97, 99, 121, 123-26, 128, 130-32, 134, 137-38, 144, 146-49, 151, 153-54, 157, 159, 161, 172, 174-76, 179-81, 183-89]. Plaintiff attempted to end the relationship a few times. However, Plaintiff maintains that at multiple points during her relationship, Seli told her that if she tried to end the relationship “it wouldn't be possible for both of us to work at Yale.” [Pl. Dep. at 19; see also, Pl. Dep. at 55, 189]. While Seli did not tell her that he would fire her if she did not have a relationship with her, he did tell her that “one of us has to leave Yale if someone learns about [the affair].” [Pl. Dep. at 55]. Plaintiff understood that by this Seli meant that Plaintiff would be the one to leave Yale. Id.

         Text messages between Seli and Plaintiff suggest that Seli was unwilling to allow the relationship to lapse. For example, in November 2013, Seli wrote to Plaintiff, “I called you but could not reach you . . . I was expecting you to be with me today . . . I am writing you in ‘bottomed out' condition.” [Pl. Exh. E at Plaintiff000229]. Plaintiff did not respond to this message. Several hours later the following exchange took place:

Seli: Would you like to go to Turkish Restaurant with me and Elnur?
Plaintiff: Why? No. I would not.
Seli: We have to be together
Plaintiff: Does Elnur have to be with us too? I don't get [it]?
Seli: He does not have to. I thought he could make the situation normal, lower the probability of us crying. It does not have to be Elnur. It can be anyone else. Or it can be only you and me. Or we can go to a movie theater. The only condition, I don't want to talk about anything serious.
Plaintiff: I appreciate your effort. I am not willing to be in a normal situation now.
Seli: No need to appreciate. I am doing this only for myself, as you want. Can we do something together?
Plaintiff: I think you are really confused and cannot think properly. Would you like to think without getting together for a while? Would be better.
Seli: I think you don't get the situation. I am suffering physically (not only emotionally). I feel deprived like a drug addict. Anyhow we won't be able to get together for a while (at least 2 weeks). But let it be as you wish. On the other hand, I suggest we meet on Saturday.
Seli: My thoughts were all around the place. It would have been rejected if that was a grant. I MISS YOU.
Plaintiff: That is what I am saying, let's think of it like a grant and define specific aims ©
Plaintiff: You need to think in a structured way.
Seli: I don't have to do everything you ask me to do ©
Plaintiff: As long as we are together, I have to do everything you want me to do.

[Pl. Exh. E at Plaintiff000229-31]. A few days after this conversation, Seli wrote to Plaintiff, “I would like to see you a lot. I will be in the office.” Id. at Plaintiff000233. Plaintiff responded, “It might not be good to see each other.” Id. Seli responded, “You are right. But staying away did not work either.” Id. In March 2014, Plaintiff told Seli that she wanted to end the relationship. Seli responded, “What does it mean it is over? . . . Have you gone insane? I turned the world upside down in the past 10 days so everything could go as we planned . . . . I love you so so much. And it is not possible for me to be without you. Nothing is over for me and nothing will end.” Id. at Plaintiff000318.

         Seli also got upset with Seli if she did not answer his calls. For example, the following exchange took place on November 22, 2013:

Seli: Hi. You have been more unreachable than I expected tonight. I am a bit ...

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