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Guercia v. Equinox Holdings, Inc.

United States District Court, Second Circuit

May 20, 2013

EQUINOX HOLDINGS, INC. et al., Defendants.


THOMAS P. GRIESA, District Judge.

This is a gender discrimination action brought by Stacy Guercia against her former employer, Equinox Fitness Club. She alleges that, during her time as a construction project manager for Equinox, she was subjected to derogatory comments about her gender and sabotaged in the performance of her duties because she was a woman. This pattern of sabotage became so pernicious, she alleges, that she was forced to resign from the company.

Guercia brings the present motion for a protective order and to quash subpoenas served by Equinox on her former employers. These subpoenas seek certain basic records regarding her employment history. She argues that these subpoenas were served without prior notice in violation of Fed.R.Civ.P. 45(B)(1) and will impose an undue burden on her by souring her reputation in what she describes as an insular business community, in an effort to seek largely irrelevant or unnecessary material.

The motion is granted.

The Complaint

The complaint alleges that Guercia is a "seasoned construction professional with a solid reputation in the industry." She holds a bachelors degree in business administration from San Francisco State University and a master's degree in marketing and brand management from the Instituto Marangoni in Milan, Italy. With this educational background, the complaint alleges that Guercia began her career as a construction project manager and built a strong reputation in the construction business community.

She joined Equinox in late 2007 and was assigned to an Equinox construction project on West 17th Street. There she was to work with another Equinox employee, who was the director of construction at the site and who had served as interim project manager of the site until Guercia was hired to assume that role.

That assignment did not begin auspiciously, however - several Equinox employees allegedly told Guercia that they were surprised at her assignment because the construction director she would be working with had a reputation for disrespecting women.

And to judge by the allegations in the complaint, these warnings were amply justified. The construction director's conduct as alleged in the complaint is the very image of gender discrimination in the workplace. Guercia alleges that he made derogatory comments about women, said that women should not work in the construction business, said she should have been given a position no higher than assistant project manager, and told her that she should only speak when spoken to. Then, after leaving the site for approximately one month, he returned and announced that he was now "in charge" of the site and that he was shocked at how it had been run in his absence. The complaint alleges that, to Guercia, it was clear that he made these comments because she was a woman. Guercia reported this behavior to her superiors at Equinox and how it was undermining her authority as project manager at the site, but the complaint does not allege what, if any action was taken.

Over the course of the next year, Equinox entrusted Guercia with the supervision of many more construction sites. However, the West 17th Street construction manager allegedly took steps to interfere with Guercia's work at these other sites as well, including sites that he was not assigned to. He told Guercia and several of her colleagues that she could not handle the work she had been assigned and he told the men working at one site not to follow Guercia's specifications. At this point, however, Equinox management took action and told him not to visit Guercia's project sites and transferred him to work on a project in Dallas, Texas with a new project manager.

But the damage to Guercia's authority at the worksite was done. The men at the sites stopped speaking to her, did not inform her of meetings that were being held, and did not attend her meetings. Then, in July 2008, the Texas project manager, the West 17th Street construction manager's supervisor at the Dallas site, appeared at one of Guercia's sites and announced that Guercia now reported to him and that he was going to teach her about construction operations. He refused to tell Guercia, however, who had given him the authority to take over the site.

And although he was now assigned to a site 1, 500 miles away, in Texas, the West 17th Street construction manager allegedly continued to undermine Guercia. He told a contractor and an electrician not to cooperate with her and also told the contractor that he was going to sabotage Guercia's work. Guercia informed her supervisors of this but the complaint alleges that they did not believe her.

Despite these impediments, Guercia remained committed to her job, once staying awake for 72 hours while simultaneously supervising the work at three different Manhattan project sites. This diligence earned her the praise of the president of Equinox who, at an August 2008 meeting, said that Guercia's efforts in the company ought to be supported.

According to the complaint, however, the president's support did little to alter the pattern of sabotage that had undermined ...

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