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Lutzker v. Novo Nordisk Pharmaceuticals

April 2, 2008


The opinion of the court was delivered by: John Gleeson, United States District Judge



Peter Lutzker sues his former employer Novo Nordisk Pharmaceuticals, Inc., ("Novo Nordisk"), alleging gender discrimination and retaliation in violation of the New York State Human Rights Law ("NYSHRL"), N.Y. Exec. Law §§ 290-301, and the New York City Human Rights Law ("NYCHRL"), N.Y. City Admin. Code §§ 8-101 to 8-1011, as well as slander under New York common law. Novo Nordisk removed this action from New York State Supreme Court pursuant to this court's diversity jurisdiction and now seeks judgment on the pleadings dismissing portions of the complaint.*fn1 For the reasons that follow, the motion is granted to the extent that Lutzker's NYCHRL claims are dismissed and his slander claim is dismissed with leave to replead.


A. The Facts Giving Rise to Lutzker's Claim*fn2

Lutzker, a retired police officer, began to work for the pharmaceutical company Novo Nordisk in November 2002 as a sales representative. He had no office, but his sales territory was exclusively in Long Island.*fn3 He had a good relationship with his supervisor Adam Stupak and received positive performance reviews. In early 2003, Lutzker became involved in a dispute with Al Caronia, another employee, who threatened him on one occasion. Caronia and his wife Dorothy Sciallo, another Novo Nordisk employee, also cursed at Lutzker and made vulgar gestures behind his back at a meeting in early 2003.

In January 2004, Sciallo replaced Stupak as Lutzker's supervisor and subjected him to a hostile work environment. Sciallo gave Lutzker worse evaluations and bonuses than Stupak had, and refused to let him use the restroom at a meeting. She also treated female employees under her supervision more favorably, inviting only female employees to outings and assigning only female sales representatives to trade shows.

On January 25, 2004, Lutzker complained to regional director Patrick Loustau regarding this discrimination and harassment. Shortly after sending this complaint, Lutzker was informed by Human Resources that he was no longer permitted to carry a firearm, volunteer for the fire department, or take emergency lights in a company car. He had been permitted to engage in all of these activities when Stupak had supervised him.

Shortly after Lutzker's complaint, Sciallo summoned him to a storage unit for a sales review. This was unusual, as sales reviews were customarily conducted at restaurants. When Lutzker arrived at the storage unit, Sciallo did not conduct a sales review but instead frisked him, claiming that she was searching for a weapon. In conducting this search, Sciallo grabbed Lutzker's crotch and reached inside his pants to grope his genitals. Sciallo refused to stop despite Lutzker's protestations, saying "I dated cops; I know where you guys keep your weapons." Compl. ¶ 32.

Lutzker then complained to Loustau and Human Resources Generalist Sharon Slayback, requesting a transfer to a different supervisor due to heart palpitations, migraines, and stress developed due to Sciallo's discrimination. This request was denied and his complaint about Sciallo's treatment was not investigated, but Lutzker successfully petitioned for disability leave from April 19, 2004 to July 4, 2004.

Lutzker ceased his employment on July 25, 2004 due to his inability to tolerate Sciallo's conduct, which included constant yelling at him; refusal to give him credit for his work; forbidding him from attending a dinner to which a friend invited him; denying him reimbursement for $19,413.39 in business expenses; and making the following defamatory comments: "Peter Lutzker is a real dirtbag"; "Peter Lutzker is a real headache"; "Peter Lutzker didn't really sell"; "Peter Lutzker has holes in his shoes and clothing"; and "Peter Lutzker is unkempt," Compl. ¶ 46.

B. The Procedural History

On June 28, 2007 Lutzker commenced this suit by filing a summons with notice in the New York Supreme Court, Kings County. The notice described the nature of the action as one to recover damages for gender discrimination by disparate treatment; hostile work environment; retaliation; and constructive discharge in violation of the NYSHRL. Summons 1. Novo Nordisk removed the case to this court on August 8, 2007 based on this court's diversity jurisdiction.

On November 21, 2007, Lutzker filed a complaint alleging the claims set forth in the summons, as well as claims of gender discrimination by disparate treatment, sexual harassment, a hostile work environment, and constructive discharge under the NYCHRL; retaliation under the NYCHRL; slander under New York common ...

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