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RAMIREZ v. NEW YORK PRESBYTERIAN HOSP.

February 15, 2001

JOSELYN RAMIREZ, PLAINTIFF,
V.
NEW YORK PRESBYTERIAN HOSPITAL AND LOUIS YTURBIDE, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Chin, District Judge.

MEMORANDUM DECISION

In this case, plaintiff Joselyn Ramirez sues her employer, defendant New York Presbyterian Hospital (the "Hospital"), and one of her co-employees, defendant Louis Yturbide, for hostile work environment sexual harassment. Defendants move for summary judgment, pursuant to Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, on the grounds that (1) most of the alleged incidents, including the more serious ones, are time-barred, (2) the continuing violation doctrine does not apply here, and (3) the remaining incidents do not, as a matter of law, rise to the level of sexual harassment. As set forth below, because genuine issues of fact exist for trial, including whether a reasonable person in plaintiffs position would have found Yturbide's conduct sufficiently severe or pervasive to alter the conditions of her employment, defendants' motion is denied.

BACKGROUND

A. The Facts

The facts alleged by plaintiff under oath are assumed to be true for purposes of this motion. Together with certain undisputed facts, they are as follows:

On October 20, 1990, plaintiff began her employment with the Hospital as a medical assistant. In January 1996, she began working in the Hospital's Urgi-Care Clinic. She became a member of Local 1199 of the National Health and Human Service Employees' Union, AFL-CIO ("Local 1199").

Beginning in November 1995, Yturbide was employed by the Hospital as a housekeeper. His duties included cleaning various parts of the Urgi-Care Clinic.

In January 1996, plaintiff and Yturbide were involved in an incident in the Urgi-Care Clinic's linen closet. Yturbide grabbed plaintiffs shoulders and started to kiss her fingers. He stated: "I can't help it, I'm just attracted to you, you're so beautiful, you have such a beautiful body, and that smile, I just want to kiss that mouth." (Ramirez Dep. Tr. 51). Plaintiff immediately reported the incident to G.O. Armond, Nurse Manager of the Urgi-Care Clinic. (Id. at 67-68). Plaintiff specifically directed Armond not to talk to Yturbide or anybody else at the Hospital about the incident. (Id. at 69-72). Plaintiff stated that her preference would be to "just monitor the situation." (Id. at 69).

In February 1996, Yturbide grabbed plaintiffs breasts. (Id. at 76-77). Plaintiff, however, did not report this incident to anybody. (Id. at 78).

After this incident in February 1996 and through the beginning of 1997, Yturbide frequently stood close to plaintiff, bumping into her and brushing his body against her. (Id. at 79-83). Plaintiff discussed this behavior with Armond "maybe four times" throughout 1996 (id. at 86), and each time they decided to deal with the situation informally and not to inform anybody else at the Hospital. (Id. at 87).

In January or February 1997, plaintiff had another incident with Yturbide. After she had a brief conversation with him, he shoved her onto a metal table. (Id. at 89). She immediately brought this to the attention of Emme Hernandez, an administrative secretary and friend of plaintiff. (Id. at 92).*fn1

In March 1997, plaintiff complained to Armond that she "could not take it anymore." (Id. at 114). Armond asked plaintiff, "Do you want me to call Human Resources?" (Id. at 122-23). Plaintiff replied, "No, no. I'm going to call the union . . . and we're going to try to intervene and have an internal meeting so that we can save this man's job. . . ." (Id. at 123).

Shortly after this conversation with Armond, plaintiff and Yturbide met with two Local 1199 representatives. (Id.; Def. R. 56.1 ¶ 14). At this meeting, plaintiff recounted all of Yturbide's conduct from the previous year and accused him of sexual harassment. (Def. R. 56.1 ¶ 15). Yturbide denied plaintiffs accusations. He explained that he had a "bad habit" of using terms such as "sweetie" and "my love," but that he never did anything to hurt her. (Tr. 126).

After the meeting with the Local 1199 representatives, "[Yturbide] didn't physically touch [plaintiff] anymore." (Id. at 359; see also id. at 138, 142-43). He did, however, as plaintiff explained, continue "the stalking behavior, which is going into a room, . . . leaning by the doorway and just staring at me while I'm working. And then if I would turn around he'd go, `Uhhh,' and he'd just gasp and walk away exaggerated, and with an angry . . . scowl." (Id. at 135; see also Ramirez Aff. ¶ 3).*fn2 Yturbide stared at plaintiff in this manner "once a week." (Tr. 140). In addition, ...


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