Searching over 5,500,000 cases.

Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Champagne v. Columbia Dental, P.C.

United States District Court, D. Connecticut

November 5, 2019



          Hon. Vanessa L. Bryant United States District Judge

         Before the Court is Defendant Columbia Dental, P.C.'s (“Defendant”) Motion for Summary Judgment. [ECF No. 33]. For the reasons set forth below, the Court DENIES Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment.


         Plaintiff Jennifer Champagne (“Plaintiff”) commenced this action against Defendant, initially alleging that Defendant engaged in sexual harassment, gender discrimination, and retaliation, in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. Section 2000e et. sq. [ECF No. 1.]. On November 17, 2018, Plaintiff filed her first amended complaint, eliminating allegations of gender discrimination and retaliation and pleading additional facts in support of her sexual harassment claim. [ECF No. 15]. On November 21, 2018, Defendant filed a Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff's Amended Complaint, [ECF No. 16], arguing, inter alia, that the Amended Complaint did not state a claim for which relief could be granted under Rule 12(b)(6). [ECF No. 16-1 at 4-14]. This was so, according to Defendant, because even though the Amended Complaint alleged that Defendant's employee dentist Dr. John Stanko, DMD, “(1) threw items and raised his voice in a profane manner (without expressing the frequency of such actions); (2) referred to the plaintiff as his “hot assistant” and “daytime wife” (without expressing the frequency of such characterizations); (3) massaged the plaintiff's shoulders “several times;” (4) grabbed the plaintiff's hand during, and in connection with, a dental procedure; and (5) thrust a drill into the plaintiff's hand during, and in connection with, a dental procedure, ” none of those actions, “even when considered in the aggregate, constitutes sexual harassment.” Id. at 7.

         On May 8, 2019, in a Memorandum of Decision denying Defendant's Motion to Dismiss, the Court disagreed. [ECF No. 28]. After summarizing the Amended Complaint's factual allegations, the Court set forth the required legal standard, noting that Plaintiff's claim was that Defendant “created a hostile or offensive work environment.” Id. at 8. The Court found that the allegations in the Amended Complaint “establishe[d] an objectively hostile work environment, ” id. at 10, for the following reasons:

Here, Stanko threw and punched items in the office, and yelled and cursed during the course of Plaintiff's employment. See [Dkt. 15 at ¶¶ 19-20]. He also addressed Plaintiff as his “hot assistant” and his “daytime wife, ” and massaged her shoulder several times. He engaged in arguably misogynistic conduct, namely forcefully grabbing her hand to force a tube into a patient's mouth, and jamming a drill into her hand, puncturing her glove, and angrily telling her to hold it in place. Id. at ¶¶ 21-22 & 30. Plaintiff complained to district manager Ochrim who did not address or attempt to remedy the issue. Id. at ¶¶ 40-41. Plaintiff told Ochrim that because of Stanko's behavior, she could not go back to work with him. In response, Ochrim advised Plaintiff that if she did not work with Stanko then she would not have a job. Id. ¶ at 29. On another occasion, Plaintiff complained and Ochrim focused on her parental status responding, “ok, but it's a job” and “you do have kids.” Id. at ¶ 43. Plaintiff mentioned to other employees that because of Stanko's conduct her “anxiety was through the roof.” Id. at ¶ 32.
None of these instances taken alone give rise to the conclusion that Plaintiff's work environment was permeated with discriminatory intimidation, ridicule and insult that was sufficiently severe to alter the conditions of her employment and create a hostile or offensive work environment. However, when taken in the aggregate, a reasonable fact finder could determine that the Plaintiff subjectively perceived the environment to be hostile and that her mistreatment was based on her gender.

Id. at 10-11.

         The Court also found that the Amended Complaint's allegations supported Plaintiff's claim for constructive discharge, [ECF No. 15 ¶ 45], because the allegations provided “sufficient evidence that would lead a reasonable fact finder to conclude that Plaintiff found her work conditions to be intolerable, ” and because Defendant's “indifference to Plaintiff's complaints about Stanko may have contributed to the intolerable nature of Plaintiff's work conditions.” [ECF No. 28 at 13].

         On August 9, 2019, Defendant filed the instant Motion for Summary Judgment. [ECF No. 33]. Defendant first argues a procedural violation, namely, that “42 U.S.C. section 2000e-5(e)(1) requires that a petitioner alleging a discriminatory employment practice must file the charge thereof with the applicable governmental entity having jurisdiction over such charge within 300 days after the commission of such act that is the subject of the charge.” [ECF No. 33-2 at 1]. Because Plaintiff undisputedly waited until January 2, 2018 to file her CHRO/EEOC complaint, the acts of sexual harassment had to have occurred no earlier than March 24, 2017. Id. at 2. This means, according the Defendant, that only acts of harassment taking place between March 24 and March 27, 2017, when Plaintiff left Defendant's employ, should be considered when ruling on Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment. Id. at 2-8.

         Even if all of the evidence adduced to date is considered, Defendant argues, it “do[es] not constitute, as a matter of law, sexual harassment.” Id. at 7-17.

         Finally, Defendant argues that Defendant did not constructively discharge Plaintiff because “[a] reasonable person in the plaintiff's position would not have perceived the plaintiff's working conditions so intolerable as to compel separation.” Id. at 17-19.

         Legal Standard

         Summary judgment should be granted “if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). The moving party bears the burden of proving that no genuine factual disputes exist. See Vivenzio v. City of Syracuse, 611 F.3d 98, 106 (2d Cir. 2010). “In determining whether that burden has been met, the court is required to resolve all ambiguities and credit all factual inferences that could be drawn in favor of the party against whom summary judgment is sought.” Id. (citing Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 255 (1986); Matsushita Electric Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986)). This means that “although the court should review the record as a whole, it must disregard all evidence favorable to the moving party that the jury is not required to believe.” Reeves v. Sanderson Plumbing Prods., Inc., 530 U.S. 133, 151 (2000); see Welch-Rubin v. Sandals Corp., No. 3:03-cv-00481, 2004 WL 2472280, at *4 (D. Conn. Oct. 20, 2004) (“At the summary judgment stage of the proceeding, [the moving party is] required to present admissible evidence in support of their allegations; allegations alone, without evidence to back them up, are not sufficient.”) (citing Gottlieb, 84 F.3d at 518); Martinez v. Conn. State Library, ...

Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.