Creacy v. BCBG Max Azria Group, LLC et al
OPINION AND ORDER re: 53 Motion for Summary Judgment: For the reasons stated above, Defendant's motion for summary judgment is DENIED. The parties are directed to appear for a status conference on April 26, 2017 at 11:30 AM. The Clerk of the Court is respectfully directed to terminate the motion, Doc. 53. (Status Conference set for 4/26/2017 at 11:30 AM before Judge Edgardo Ramos.) (Signed by Judge Edgardo Ramos on 3/31/2017) (jwh)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF NEW YORK
– against –
OPINION AND ORDER
14 Civ. 10008 (ER)
BCBG MAX AZRIA GROUP, LLC, LORD &
TAYLOR LLC, and LIXI PENG, a/k/a LEXI
Danielle Creacy (“Creacy”) alleges that Defendant BCBG Max Azria Group, LLC
(“BCBG”) 1 subjected her to a racially hostile work environment in violation of Title VII of the
Civil Rights Act of 1964 (“Title VII”), New York State Human Rights Law (“NYSHRL”), and
42 U.S.C. § 1981 (“Section 1981”), and denied her the use of a place of public accommodation
in violation of NYSHRL. Before the Court is BCBG’s motion for summary judgment seeking
dismissal of the Complaint in its entirety. Doc. 53. For the reasons stated below, BCBG’s
motion is DENIED.
FACTUAL BACKGROUND 2
Creacy is an African-American female who was 28 years old in 2014. See Pl.’s R. 56.1
Rsp. ¶ 1. Creacy worked for BCBG, a clothing retailer with more than 651 retail stores
Plaintiff also sued Lord & Taylor LLC (“Lord & Taylor” or “L&T”) and the customer involved in the incidents,
whom Creacy refers to as Lexi/Lixi Peng. L&T and Plaintiff have entered into a stipulation of dismissal with
prejudice of all claims filed against Lord & Taylor, and thus Lord & Taylor is no longer a party to the action. Doc.
72. Plaintiff has not been able to locate or effectuate service on Ms. Peng.
The following facts are drawn from Defendant’s Rule 56.1 Statement of Material Facts (Doc. 55) (Def.’s R. 56.1”),
Plaintiff’s Joint Local Rule 56.1 Statement (Doc. 62) (“Pl.’s R. 56.1 Rsp.”), and the parties’ supporting submissions.
worldwide, from July 2012 to April 2014. Id. ¶¶ 3, 6, 78–79. Some of BCBG’s stores are
standalone stores; others are “partner shops” located inside larger department stores. Id. In June
2012, Creacy began working as a part time stylist in BCBG’s Greenwich, Connecticut store,
where she outfitted customers and assisted the management staff. Id. ¶ 6. In March or April
2013, Creacy received a promotion and transferred to BCBG’s store in Scarsdale, New York,
which was located on the main floor of the Lord & Taylor store in the Vernon Hills Shopping
Center. Id. ¶¶ 11-12.
December 26, 2013 Encounter with Peng
On December 26, 2013, Creacy first encountered customer Lexi Peng (“Peng”) at the
Scarsdale store. Id. ¶ 15. At the time, Creacy was in charge of the BCBG shop within L&T and
was working with sales associates Ashley Simon (“Simon”) and Dejahne Johnson (“Johnson”),
both of whom are also African-American. Id. Creacy was at the register speaking to Simon and
Johnson when she heard Peng—an Asian woman in her 30s or 40s—yell “move” twice. Id. ¶ 16.
Creacy asked Peng if she was being helped. Id. ¶ 17. In response, Peng began yelling and
Creacy could not make out everything Peng was saying. Creacy then asked Peng to give her a
second and turned back to face Simon and Johnson at the register. Id. Peng proceeded to elbow
Creacy, stomp on her right foot, and yell comments such as: “You people don’t do this, you
people don’t do right . . . What are you doing? . . . You people, you need to do this . . . Hurry up
. . . Your job is to serve me . . . You can’t be manager, your kind . . . You call security. They are
not going to do nothing for you people.” Id. ¶ 18. At the same time, Peng pointed to the back of
her own hand showing her skin, which Creacy understood to be a reference to Creacy’s skin
color. Deposition of Danielle Creacy (“Creacy Dep.”) (Doc. 66-1) at 81:8–12. While Peng was
yelling these comments, she was also holding a clothing hanger in Creacy’s face. Pl.’s R. 56.1
Rsp. ¶ 18.
Creacy called Shannon O’Connell (“O’Connell”), L&T’s loss prevention manager at the
Scarsdale store, to ask for assistance. Id. ¶ 19. Creacy told O’Connell that Peng was
“screaming” and asked her to remove Peng from the store. Id. ¶ 22. O’Connell called Jaime
LaMorte (“LaMorte”), the manager for L&T’s contemporary department, and asked her to go to
the BCBG location and assess the situation until O’Connell arrived. Id. ¶ 24. When O’Connell
arrived, she asked Peng to calm down because her tone was unacceptable and she was creating a
scene. Id. ¶ 26. O’Connell told Peng that if she did not lower her voice, she would be asked to
After the incident, O’Connell took Creacy and Simon to the stockroom where they
discussed the events. Id. ¶ 27. In the stockroom, Creacy told O’Connell that Peng referred to her
as “you people” and “your kind” and had a problem with her because she was a black manager.
Creacy Dep. at 96:3–97:4; Certification of Ashley Simon in Support of Charge of Discrimination
(“Simon Cert.”) (Doc. 66-10) ¶¶ 14, 16; see also Deposition of Shannon O’Connell (“O’Connell
Dep.”) (Doc. 66-5) at 96:25–97:17, 98:21–100:5.
As soon as Creacy left the stockroom, she called Jessica Ramirez (“Ramirez”), who was
serving as the acting district manager. Pl.’s R. 56.1 Rsp. ¶ 31. Stephanie Walker (“Walker”),
Creacy’s direct supervisor at the time, was on vacation. Id. The parties dispute whether Creacy
told Ramirez that the customer’s aggression was potentially racially motivated. Ramirez
testified that Creacy told her that the customer was aggressive, but that she did not recall learning
that the situation was racially charged. Deposition of Jessica Ramirez (“Ramirez Dep.”) (Doc.
66-3) at 42:23–43:9. Creacy testified that she made it very clear to Ramirez that Peng hit her and
did not like her because she was a black manager. Creacy Dep. at 106:5–9. Creacy also testified
that Ramirez expressed shock that the customer was able to remain in the store and continue
shopping. Id. at 106:11–12.
Ramirez advised Creacy to send her an email describing the incident, which Ramirez
forwarded to Rick Munoz (“Munoz”) and Madeline Murray (“Murray”). Pl.’s R. 56.1 Rsp. ¶ 32.
At the time, Munoz was BCBG’s loss prevention manager and Murray was a BCBG district
manager. Id. ¶¶ 10, 32. In her email to Ramirez, Creacy stated that the customer “was very
challenging and aggressive,” put her hands on Creacy, and caused her to feel unsafe. Id. ¶ 33;
Doc. 56-15. The email made no reference to race, however. See Doc. 56-15. Munoz and
Murray never responded to Ramirez’s email. See Ramirez Dep. at 44:15-24; 49:8–11; 51:14–
That same day, December 26, 2014, O’Connell also called Munoz about the incident and
advised him regarding Creacy’s allegations—including that Peng struck Creacy and made racial
comments to her. O’Connell Dep. at 127:16–128:12. Munoz spoke with Creacy three days later,
claimed not to have received Ramirez’s email, but assured Creacy that he would partner with
Murray, talk to O’Connell, and get back to Creacy. Creacy Dep. at 118:20-119:6. However,
Munoz did not contact Murray. Deposition of Madeline Murray (“Murray Dep.”) (Doc. 66-2) at
75:2–6; 103:7–104:7; 148:21–149:2. 3 On December 28, 2014, when Walker returned from
vacation, Creacy told her about the incident with Peng, including that she believed Peng’s
harassment was racially motivated. Pl.’s R. 56.1 Rsp. ¶ 34; Simon Cert. ¶ 17 (noting Simon also
told Walker “it is because [Danielle] is black, that’s why she got it”).
Creacy does not state whether Munoz coordinated with O’Connell as promised.
January 5, 2014 Encounter with Peng
On January 5, 2014, Peng returned to the Scarsdale L&T store while Creacy was
working. Pl.’s R. 56.1 Rsp. ¶ 36. Creacy was in the dressing room when a sales associate from
L&T’s denim department notified her that a customer wished to return BCBG merchandise. Id.
¶ 37. Creacy exited the dressing room to attend to the customer, but upon seeing that the
customer was Peng, stopped and asked Peng to give her a moment. Id. ¶ 38. Creacy then
proceeded to another register and called Zandra Smith (“Smith”), an African-American BCBG
sales associate, but Smith was on her lunch break. Id. Creacy also called Noel Figueroa, an
L&T security department employee, and asked him to come to the BCBG register. Id. ¶ 39–40.
Meanwhile, Peng was saying things like: “Hurry up. This happened last time. See, you people
always make it hard for me. You people always want to make it hard for me.” Id. ¶ 41. Peng
also called Creacy a “cunt” and said, “Oh you’re afraid? You feel scared? You should be. You
people make it hard.” Id. ¶ 42. Peng became even angrier when one item could not be
processed. Id. ¶ 45. Creacy then saw Smith approaching and asked her to finish processing the
return. Id. ¶ 46. When Peng’s returns were processed, she left the BCBG register and went to
another department in the store. Id. ¶ 47. Later, L&T’s human resources manager Lorraine
Mian (“Mian”) approached Peng and told her not to return to the BCBG register or touch any
employees. Id. ¶¶ 48–49. Creacy testified that Mian, after speaking with Peng, told her that the
customer was still shopping and that if Peng came back over to the BCBG register, that Creacy
should just go sit in the back. Creacy Dep. at 168:11–14. The following day, on January 6,
2014, Creacy texted a friend stating:
[W]as told that when customer comes in I have to go to the stockroom [a]long with
another black associate[.] Had no support. Then customer came in again yesterday
[t]alking shit shit trying to do a return… And my manager is so laxed [s]o I wanna take
there [sic] right steps bc I will sue the shit out of them Bc I think it’s a racial thing.
Pl.’s R. 56.1 Rsp. ¶ 51.
The next day, on January 7, 2014, Creacy sent an email to Ramirez, Murray, Walker, and
Munoz expressing further concern about her encounters with Peng. Id. ¶ 52. She expressed
concern for her safety and for the safety of her staff and wanted to know what the protocol
should be if Peng returned. Id. She indicated that she did not want to have anxiety about
carrying out her daily job responsibilities and did not want to be “embarrassed and harassed.”
Doc. 66-16 at BCBG0000228. Her email made no mention of race or racial comments. Id.
Approximately one hour later, Walker responded to Creacy’s email, letting her know that she
had followed up with LaMorte and had tried following up with O’Connell. Pl.’s R. 56.1 Rsp.
¶ 53. She told Creacy: “We will make sure that you feel safe and supported…” Id.
Murray forwarded the email to her supervisor, regional manager Billie Beck-Hammond
(“Hammon”), and also wrote Walker and Ramirez that she emailed Hammond about the issue
and that they should “wait for an answer from me before responding.” See Doc. 66-16 at
BCBG000229. In the email, Murray indicted she was not aware of the situation previously. Id.
Neither Walker nor Ramirez ever received an answer from Murray. Ramirez Dep. at 48:3–
49:11; Deposition of Stephanie Walker (“Walker Dep.”) (Doc. 66-4) at 43:6–22; 45:11–25. In
fact, Walker reached out to Murray multiple times about Creacy without getting a response from
her. Walker Dep. at 45:11–25. Walker had also sought “a clear black-and- white” answer from
L&T’s loss prevention department as to L&T’s and BCBG’s respective responsibilities
concerning the situation, but does not recall getting a clear answer and only got “a lot of passing
the buck.” Id. at 40:5–41:1. An individual from L&T’s loss prevention department told her it
was BCBG’s responsibility to implement whatever procedures it felt necessary and that L&T
would note it, but would only be able to follow up it if was something that they actually saw on
video. Id. at 40:24–41:6. 4 On January 29, 2014, Walker wrote Murray a follow up email,
. . . I know this has been passed on multiple times, is there any way that you
would be able to either speak to Danielle or provide me with any form of update
on the situation? I’m still trying to reassure her that she is safe and supported in
the situation, but I know she is still waiting to hear something back from someone
to know what to do in the future.
Doc. 66-18 at P16. Murray never answered Walker’s question. Walker Dep. at 44:2345:25.
BCBG Human Resources Department
BCBG’s corporate harassment policy provides that “BCBG prohibit[s] unlawful
harassment in any form,” and that an associate who believes “he or she has been subjected to
harassment in the workplace” is to report the incident(s) to their supervisor or human resources,
at which point, the human resources department is to “undertake an immediate and objective
investigation of the employee’s claims.” Declaration of Anne Buchanan in Support of Motion
for Summary Judgment (“Buchanan Declr.”), Ex. A (Doc. 57-1). On January 8, 2014, Creacy
called Megan Arcuri (“Arcuri”), the BCBG human resources official responsible for the region,
regarding the December 26 and January 5 incidents. See Doc. 66-16 at BCBG000248–50.
Creacy testified that Arcuri assured her that she would get back to Creacy, but Arcuri never
followed up with her directly. Creacy Dep. at 189:21–24; 193:6–9.
Subsequently on January 8, 2014, Creacy filed a police report with the Eastchester Police
Department. Pl.’s R. 56.1 Rsp. ¶ 54; Doc. 56-17. Creacy testified that she filed this report after
speaking with Arcuri earlier that day because she was frightened and nothing about the incident
was documented. Pl.’s R. 56.1 Rsp. ¶ 54. Creacy did not provide a copy of the police report to
O’Connell testified that after the incident she reviewed the surveillance video, but the camera had not been focused
on the BCBG register at the time, so there was no footage of the incident. O’Connell Dep. (Doc. 56-3) at 111:3–21.
anyone at L&T or BCBG, but she told BCBG’s human resources department that she filed it, and
the police told her that they would follow up with the store. Id. ¶ 55.
On January 9, 2014 Arcuri emailed Munoz, Murray, and Hammond, 5 stating that Creacy
had called her and was upset about the incidents with Peng. Id. ¶ 57. On January 10, 2014,
Munoz responded with an email stating that he visited the store and spoke to Creacy and the
L&T loss prevention team, and that the L&T loss prevention manager had committed to take
follow-up steps. Id. ¶ 60; Doc. 66-16. In his email, Munoz also promised to speak with the
general manager of the L&T Scarsdale store, Charles McGinness. Id. ¶ 60; Doc. 66-16. He did
not, however. Deposition of Ricard Munoz (“Munoz Dep.”) (Doc. 66-8) at 82:5-21.
Creacy Seeks Corrective Action
Creacy continued to raise her concerns with managers, and on January 30, 2014,
contacted Hammond herself. Creacy Dep at 193:10–19. Hammond told Creacy that because she
worked in an L&T store, BCBG did not control how the host store dealt with customers. Id. at
Creacy also spoke with Joanne Ross, BCBG’s vice president for the partner division, and
asked several times during that conversation for Peng to be banned from the store. Pl.’s R. 56.1
Rsp. ¶ 70; Deposition of Joanne Ross (“Ross Dep.”) (Doc. 66-6) at 79:22–81:1. At her
deposition, Ross explained BCBG’s role in safeguarding its partner shop employees. She stated
that BCBG and L&T held “joint responsibility” for the security of partner store employees—
such as Creacy—and that BCBG and L&T “work in partnership” to protect an employee
harassed by a customer. Ross Dep. at 28:7-19; 40:12–17. Ross explained that if BCBG
determines that a host store is not adequately protecting the BCBG employee, BCBG would
At the time, Hammond was the Regional Manager and Murray’s boss. Id. ¶ 58.
communicate with the host store at a corporate level and work directly with the corporate
representatives. Id. at 42:5–43:15. In this case, Ross had previously worked approximately
12 years with Charlie McGuiness, L&T’s general manager of the Scarsdale store. Id. at 73:14–
74:2. Ross called McGuiness to say that Creacy was “very upset with the situation.” Id. at
101:20–102:3. McGuiness replied that the store was handling the situation “appropriately” with
loss prevention. Id. at 102:10–15. That was the extent of their conversation. Id. at 101:23–
102:19. Additionally, Ross testified that Creacy did not tell her that Creacy believed the incident
was racially motivated, but that if she had, Ross would have reported Creacy’s complaint to
human resources and the legal department “because of the severity of the allegation.” Id. at
87:7–20. Creacy disputes this and maintains that she did tell Ross that Peng acted out of a racial
bias. Beranbaum Declr., Ex. 12 (“EEOC Affidavit of Danielle Creacy”) (Doc. 66-12) ¶ 67.
Creacy also repeatedly asked for a transfer. Specifically, she requested transfers in
January and March 2014 and spoke to Walker, Ramirez, Hammond, and Ross about transferring
from the Scarsdale store. Pl.’s R. 56.1 Rsp. ¶ 73. Walker testified that she spoke to Hammond
about transferring Creacy, and Hammond said she did not have any open positions at a different
store. Id. ¶ 74. Similarly, Hammond testified that she spoke to Creacy about transferring and
informed her both that she could not transfer into a higher position and that there were no open
positions in the Greenwich store, where Creacy potentially wanted to return. Id. ¶ 75. Creacy
disputes the veracity of this statement, averring that the Greenwich store employee roster shows
that there were vacant sales associate positions during this period and another sales associate was
hired at the Greenwich store five days after Creacy ultimately resigned. Id. ¶ 75. However,
Creacy has not attached any of the relevant roster forms for the Court to determine the accuracy
of her statements. 6
Peng Returns to the Store
The next time Creacy saw Peng in the store was in March 2014. Id. ¶ 61. When Creacy
saw her, she called Amy Werner, an L&T manager, and went back to the stockroom, as
O’Connell had previously directed her to do in the event that Peng returned. Id. ¶¶ 61–63. 7
Creacy stayed in the stockroom for approximately an hour while Peng shopped. Creacy Dep. at
210:16–20. She had no interaction with Peng that day. Id. at 211:1–3.
Creacy Seeks Alternative Employment and Resigns from BCBG
On March 5, 2014, Creacy began seeking employment with other companies. Pl.’s R.
56.1 Rsp. ¶ 76. 8 Creacy claims she experienced physical distress and anxiety in connection with
these incidents and BCBG’s response. Walker, her store manager, testified that “every day that
[Creacy] worked, she . . . would be freaked out whenever an Asian woman came in, she was
always on edge and was checking to make sure that it wasn’t the customer coming back again.”
Walker Dep. at 44:2–7. Creacy avers that she “loved [her] job” before the incidents, but that
after she was “frightened” and “hated walking into the store.” EEOC Affidavit of Danielle
Creacy ¶ 69. She lost a lot of weight, cried all the time, and started seeing a counselor because
of the stress. Id.
Creacy states that the rosters can be found at Doc. 66, Ex. 14 (Declaration of John Beranbaum), see Pl.’s R. 56.1
Rsp. ¶ 75, but Exhibit 14 is a Certification of Laura Antonucci and does not purport to contain any BCBG
Plaintiff also testified that after her second encounter with Peng, Mian and Figueroa also told her to go to the
stockroom if Peng came back. Id.
Creacy first contacted an attorney in late March or early April, 2014. Id. ¶ 77.
On April 19, 2014, Creacy received a job offer as a sales supervisor at a retail store in
SoHo, New York. Pl.’s R. 56.1 Rsp. ¶ 78. That day, Creacy sent Murray an email, stating that
she was resigning effective immediately from her position at BCBG “[d]ue to the emotional,
mental and physical stress that I am under due to not having a safe and supported work
environment.” Id. ¶ 79. Creacy’s resignation email did not mention race specifically. Id. ¶ 80.
Creacy commenced this action on December 19, 2014. See Complaint (Doc. 1). Creacy
alleges that Defendant subjected her to a racially hostile work environment, retaliated against
her, and compelled her to quit (“constructive discharge”) in violation of Title VII, Section 1981,
and NYSHRL, and denied her the use of a place of public accommodation in violation of
NYSHRL. See Am. Compl. (Doc. 6) On August 17, 2016, Creacy and BCBG stipulated to a
dismissal with prejudice of Counts Four (Section 1981 – Retaliation), Five (Title VII –
Retaliation), and Six (NYSHRL – Retaliation). Doc. 67. On October 14, 2016, Creacy and L&T
also stipulated to dismissal with prejudice of all claims against L&T. Doc. 72. Thus, Creacy’s
remaining claims against BCBG are for: (i) hostile work environment and constructive
discharge in violation of Title VII, NYSHRL, and Section 1981; and (ii) denial of use for a place
of public accommodation in violation of NYSHRL. Defendant moves for summary judgment on
all remaining counts, and also moves to dismiss Creacy’s demand for punitive damages. See
Doc. 54 at 1.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
Summary judgment is appropriate where “the movant shows that there is no genuine
dispute as to any material fact.” Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(a). “An issue of fact is ‘genuine’ if the
evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the non-moving party.” Senno
v. Elmsford Union Free Sch. Dist., 812 F. Supp. 2d 454, 467 (S.D.N.Y. 2011) (citing SCR Joint
Venture L.P. v. Warshawsky, 559 F.3d 133, 137 (2d Cir. 2009)). A fact is “material” if it might
“affect the outcome of the litigation under the governing law.” Id. (quoting SCR Joint Venture
L.P, 559 F.3d at 137). The party moving for summary judgment is first responsible for
demonstrating the absence of any genuine issue of material fact. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477
U.S. 317, 323 (1986). If the moving party meets its burden, “the nonmoving party must come
forward with admissible evidence sufficient to raise a genuine issue of fact for trial in order to
avoid summary judgment.” Saenger v. Montefiore Med. Ctr., 706 F. Supp. 2d 494, 504
(S.D.N.Y. 2010) (internal quotation marks omitted) (quoting Jaramillo v. Weyerhaeuser Co., 536
F.3d 140, 145 (2d Cir. 2008)).
In deciding a motion for summary judgment, the Court must “construe the facts in the
light most favorable to the non-moving party and must resolve all ambiguities and draw all
reasonable inferences against the movant.” Brod v. Omya, Inc., 653 F.3d 156, 164 (2d Cir. 2011)
(quoting Williams v. R.H. Donnelley, Corp., 368 F.3d 123, 126 (2d Cir. 2004)). However, in
opposing a motion for summary judgment, the non-moving party may not rely on unsupported
assertions, conjecture or surmise. Goenaga v. March of Dimes Birth Defects Found., 51 F.3d 14,
18 (2d Cir. 1995). The non-moving party must do more than show that there is “some
metaphysical doubt as to the material facts.” McClellan v. Smith, 439 F.3d 137, 144 (2d Cir.
2006) (citing Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986)). To
defeat a motion for summary judgment, “the non-moving party must set forth significant,
probative evidence on which a reasonable fact-finder could decide in its favor.” Senno, 812 F.
Supp. 2d at 467–68 (citing Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, 477 U.S. 242, 256 (1986)). “[S]ummary
judgment may not be granted simply because the court believes that the plaintiff will be unable
to meet his or her burden of persuasion at trial. There must either be a lack of evidence in
support of the plaintiff’s position or the evidence must be so overwhelmingly tilted in one
direction that any contrary finding would constitute clear error.” Danzer v. Norden Sys., Inc.,
151 F.3d 50, 54 (2d Cir. 1998) (citations omitted).
Hostile Work Environment
The same standards govern hostile work environment claims under Title VII, Section
1981, and NYSHRL. See Rivera v. Rochester Genesee Reg’l Transp. Auth., 743 F.3d 11, 20 n.4
(2d Cir. 2014); Bermudez v. City of N.Y., 783 F. Supp. 2d 560, 587 (S.D.N.Y. 2011) (noting that
“hostile work environment claims under the NYSHRL are treated the same as claims under
To establish a hostile work environment claim, “a plaintiff must produce enough
evidence to show that ‘the workplace is permeated with discriminatory intimidation, ridicule, and
insult that is sufficiently severe or pervasive to alter the conditions of the victim’s employment
and create an abusive working environment.’” Gorzynski v. JetBlue Airways Corp., 596 F.3d 93,
102 (2d Cir. 2010) (quoting Demoret v. Zegarelli, 451 F.3d 140, 149 (2d Cir. 2006)).
Additionally, it is “axiomatic” that the mistreatment is only actionable when it occurs because of
an employee’s protected characteristic, such as race or national origin. Brown v. Henderson, 257
F.3d 246, 252 (2d Cir. 2001) (emphasis added). A plaintiff must also demonstrate a specific
basis for imputing the conduct creating the hostile work environment to the employer. Alfano v.
Costello, 294 F.3d 365, 373 (2d Cir. 2002).
Defendant argues it is entitled to summary judgment on the hostile work environment
claims because the alleged conduct was not severe or pervasive and cannot be linked to racial
animus, and because Peng’s conduct cannot be imputed to BCBG.
1. Existence of a Hostile Work Environment Because of a Protected
To determine whether a plaintiff has met the burden of establishing a hostile
environment, courts should “examin[e] the totality of the circumstances, including: the
frequency of the discriminatory conduct; its severity; whether it is physically threatening or
humiliating, or a mere offensive utterance; and whether it unreasonably interferes with the
victim’s [job] performance.” Hayut v. State Univ. of N.Y., 352 F.3d 733, 745 (2d Cir. 2003)
(quotation marks omitted); see also Patane v. Clark, 508 F.3d 106, 113 (2d Cir. 2007).
Moreover, the “test has objective and subjective elements: the misconduct shown must be severe
or pervasive enough to create an objectively hostile or abusive work environment, and the victim
must also subjectively perceive that environment to be abusive.” Alfano, 294 F.3d at 374
(quotation marks omitted).
While acknowledging that “the standard for establishing a hostile work environment is
high,” the Second Circuit has “repeatedly cautioned against setting the bar too high, noting that
[w]hile a mild, isolated incident does not make a work environment hostile, the test is whether
‘the harassment is of such quality or quantity that a reasonable employee would find the
conditions of her employment altered for the worse.’” Feingold v. New York, 366 F.3d 138, 150
(2d Cir. 2004) (citing Terry v. Ashcroft, 336 F.3d 128, 148 (2d Cir.2003)) (alteration and
emphasis original). “[T]he fact that the law requires harassment to be severe or pervasive before
it can be actionable does not mean that employers are free from liability in all but the most
egregious cases.” Id.
Whether the Comments Were Racially Motivated
Defendant further argues that Creacy has not demonstrated that Peng’s comments were
racially motivated and has made no concrete allegations to suggest that Peng’s behavior—much
less BCBG’s reaction to that behavior—was motivated by racial animus. Defendant BCBG Max
Azria Group, LLC’s Memorandum of Law in Support of its Motion for Summary Judgment
(“Def.’s Mem. L.”) (Doc. 54) at 14–15. Defendant argues that the words Peng used did not
invoke race—but rather were ambiguous enough that they could be construed to reference
Creacy’s role as a salesperson—not her membership in any protected category. Id. at 15.
Specifically, Defendant argues that comments such as “your job is to serve me” and “this is what
you people do”—while crude—are nonetheless accurate descriptions of a sales person’s job. Id.
Defendant suggests a non-racist interpretation for the phrase “you people”—namely, that when
Peng said “you people” she was referring to the sales staff, not black people. Id.
During Creacy’s first interaction with Peng, Peng yelled comments such as: “You people
don’t do this, you people don’t do right . . . You people, you need to do this . . . Your job is to
serve me . . . You can’t be manager, your kind . . . You call security . . . They are not going to do
nothing for you people.” Peng also pointed to the skin on her hand, which Creacy interpreted as
a reference to her skin color. During the second interaction, Peng stated, “See, you people
always make it hard for me. You people always want to make it hard for me. You people make
it hard.” Creacy argues that Peng’s use of the terms “you people” and “your kind” in context
with the other statements demonstrate that she used these labels to classify Creacy as belonging
to an inferior group. Plaintiff’s Memorandum of Law in Opposition to Defendant’s Motion for
Summary Judgment (“Pl.’s Mem. L.”) (Doc. 64) at 14–15.
Courts in this Circuit have held that a jury can reasonably interpret “you people” or “your
kind” as having a racial meaning. See Hill v. City of N.Y., 136 F. Supp. 3d 304, 337 (E.D.N.Y.
2015) (listing cases). The Court finds that there is enough evidence that a jury may construe the
comments Peng made to Creacy, including references to “you people” as referring to her race, as
opposed to her role as a salesperson. See, e.g., Winston v. Verizon Servs. Corp., 633 F. Supp. 2d
42, 53 (S.D.N.Y. 2009) (where Defendant argued that the use of the phrase “you people” is
ambiguous and not necessarily evidence of discrimination, the court held that questions as to the
state of mind and discriminatory intent are for the jury); Battle v. Carroll, No. 11 Civ. 624S
(WMS), 2014 WL 1679422, at *4 (W.D.N.Y. Apr. 28, 2014) (where defendants posited that
“you people” referred to the housekeeping staff, not black people, the court held that the question
of whether the term reflected racial bias was a matter for the jury). It is the fact-finder’s
prerogative to reach its own conclusion whether these statements reflected racial bias.
b. Severity and Pervasiveness of Conduct
As to the frequency of the complained conduct, Defendant argues that Peng made the
comments to Creacy on only two occasions. Def.’s Mem. L. at 13. As a general rule, incidents
must be more than “episodic; they must be sufficiently continuous and concerted in order to be
deemed pervasive.” Perry v. Ethan Allen, Inc., 115 F.3d 143, 149 (2d Cir. 1997). Isolated acts,
unless very serious, do not meet the threshold of severity or pervasiveness. Brennan v. Metro.
Opera Ass’n, Inc., 192 F.3d 310, 318 (2d Cir. 1999); see also Faragher v. City of Boca Raton,
524 U.S. 775, 788 (1998) (noting that “[w]e have made it clear that conduct must be extreme to
amount to a change in the terms and conditions of employment”). “But it is well settled in this
Circuit that even a single act can meet the threshold if, by itself, it can and does work a
transformation of the plaintiff’s workplace.” Alfano, 294 F.3d at 374. “In short, a plaintiff
alleging a hostile work environment ‘must demonstrate either that a single incident was
extraordinarily severe, or that a series of incidents were sufficiently continuous and concerted to
have altered the conditions of her working environment.’” Id. (citing Cruz v. Coach Stores, Inc.,
202 F.3d 560, 570 (2d Cir. 2000); see also Richardson v. New York State Dep’t of Correctional
Serv., 180 F.3d 426, 439 (2d Cir. 1999) (“[T]here is neither a threshold magic number of
harassing incidents that gives rise, without more, to liability as a matter of law, nor a number of
incidents below which a plaintiff fails as a matter of law to state a claim.”) (internal quotation
The Court does not reiterate all the factual circumstances giving rise to Creacy’s hostile
work environment claim, but the allegations can be summarized as follows: on two occasions,
within approximately two weeks, Peng verbally assaulted—and on one occasion physically
assaulted—Creacy while she was working. Peng repeatedly referred to Creacy by language such
as “you people” and “your kind.” Peng’s comments also included language that was physically
threatening, such as “Oh you’re afraid? You feel scared? You should be.” There is no factual
dispute that Peng’s conduct interfered with Creacy’s work—causing her, among other things, to
retreat to a stockroom while the customer finished shopping. BCBG argues that these
circumstances are not severe or pervasive enough because it only happened twice. Creacy
argues that, when viewed collectively, the quantity and severity of the conduct and comments are
sufficient to be deemed pervasive and damaging to her work environment.
Examining the circumstances in their totality, and weighing the nature, severity, and
frequency of the conduct Creacy encountered, the Court finds that “[r]easonable jurors may well
disagree about whether these incidents would negatively alter the working conditions of a
reasonable employee” and therefore “the potential for such disagreement renders summary
judgment inappropriate.” Whidbee v. Garzarelli Food Specialties, Inc., 223 F.3d 62, 71 (2d Cir.
2000). In Whidbee v. Garzarelli Food Specialties, Inc., the Second Circuit reversed the district
court’s granting of summary judgment in part because one of the racially derogatory comments
that was made over a span of two or three months was physically intimidating. 223 F.3d at 71.
The Court highlighted the aggressive nature of one of these comments, noting that “[a]t least one
comment—[that] he had a rope with which to hang a co-worker—was physically threatening.”
Id. at 70–71. Review of Second Circuit jurisprudence in this area makes clear that when conduct
in the workplace is physically threatening to an individual because of his membership in a
protected class, that conduct is sufficient to create a hostile work environment. See, e.g.,
Gregory v. Daly, 243 F.3d 687, 693 (2d Cir. 2001) (holding that hostile work environment claim
survived dismissal because of supervisor’s “graphic references to sexual assault and women’s
vulnerability to it, and intimidating physical behavior”); Cruz, 202 F.3d at 571 (holding that a
supervisor’s “physically threatening” behavior of backing employee into a wall brought the “case
over the line separating merely offensive or boorish conduct from actionable sexual
Drawing inferences in favor of Creacy, while it is true that she only interacted with Peng
on two occasions, the encounters were severe and included physically threatening language.
Indeed, Creacy even thought it was necessary to file a police report regarding the incidents.
Thus, a reasonable jury may find that the severity of the conduct at issue, if proven, would be
sufficient to establish a hostile work environment. Therefore, the Court DENIES Defendant’s
motion for summary judgment on the hostile work environment claims.
c. Employer Liability
BCBG argues that its lack of control over Peng and over L&T’s response to the alleged
incident precludes liability against BCBG as an employer. In Summa v. Hofstra Univ., 708 F.3d
115, 124 (2d Cir. 2013), the Second Circuit endorsed the Equal Employment Opportunity
Commission rule for imputing employer liability for harassment by non-employees. The Court
While this Circuit has not yet determined the standards for addressing harassment
attributable to non-employees, we now adopt the well-reasoned rules of the Equal
Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) in imputing employer liability
for harassment by non-employees according to the same standards for nonsupervisory co-workers, with the qualification that we “will consider the extent of
the employer’s control and any other legal responsibility which the employer may
have with respect to the conduct of such non-employees.”
Id. (citing 29 C.F.R. § 1604.11(e) (2016)). As is true for co-worker, non-supervisory harassment
claims, in third-party harassment cases, “the employer will be held liable only for its own
negligence,” and the plaintiff must demonstrate that the employer “failed to provide a reasonable
avenue for complaint or that it knew, or in the exercise of reasonable care should have known,
about the harassment yet failed to take appropriate remedial action.” Id. (citing Duch v. Jakubek,
588 F.3d 757, 762 (2d Cir. 2009) (internal quotation marks omitted)). In determining the
appropriateness of an employer’s response, courts look to whether the response was “immediate
or timely and appropriate in light of the circumstances, particularly the level of control and legal
responsibility [the employer] has with respect to [the employee’s] behavior.” Summa, 708 F.3d
at 124 (citing Crist v. Focus Homes, Inc., 122 F.3d 1107, 1111 (8th Cir. 1997) (internal quotation
marks omitted, alteration in original)).
In Summa, the Second Circuit affirmed dismissal of a sexual harassment claim that a
female graduate student brought against a university, its head football coach, and its vice
president of university relations. See id. The plaintiff was a team manager for the football team,
and encountered a number of allegedly hostile comments about her appearance and sexual
activities from members of the team. Id. at 120–121. Applying the rules regarding employer
liability for third-party actions, the Second Circuit held that defendants had a “remedial
obligation to address and end the harassment,” and that they met their burden to do so. Id. at
124. The court noted that plaintiff did not complain of many incidents of harassment by the
players, but when she did, each complaint “was dealt with quickly and in proportion to the level
of seriousness of the event,” and therefore concluded that the defendants took the appropriate
remedial action. Id. at 125.
Creacy provides several reasons to deny summary judgment on this issue. First, she
argues that a triable issue of fact exists with regards to whether BCBG’s anti-harassment policy
and complaint procedure provide an adequate avenue of complaint. Pl.’s Mem. L. at 17-18.
Specifically, Creacy argues that BCBG did not physically disseminate its anti-harassment policy,
but only made the associate handbook available electronically, and furthermore did not train its
employees in its anti-harassment policy. Id. at 18. Second, Creacy argues that BCBG failed to
take prompt remedial action. For example: (i) BCBG supervisors did not report Creacy’s
complaints to the human resources department, contrary to company policy; (ii) BCBG did not
undertake “a prompt and objective investigation” of Creacy’s complaints, as required by
company policy; and (iii) BCBG did not exercise reasonable care when its managers knew about
the December 26, 2013 incident on that date, and yet allowed Peng to return to the store on
January 5, 2014. Id. at 19–20.
Here, it is undisputed that BCBG knew of Creacy’s complaint regarding Peng the same
day of Peng’s visit and permitted her to return to the store again on January 5, 2014. But BCBG
argues that it took proper remedial steps by virtue of O’Connell’s meeting with Creacy and her
direction that Creacy remove herself from the sales floor if Peng returned. Def.’s Mem. L. at 1617. BCBG also points to the following as evidence that it took the proper remedial steps: (i)
Creacy was able to contact her supervisor and L&T’s security department to report her concerns;
(ii) L&T’s security department arrived at the site immediately after being called during both the
December and January incidents; and (iii) BCBG’s loss prevention manager, Munoz, spoke with
Creacy and L&T’s loss prevention manager, O’Connell, about the situation. Def.’s Mem. at 1617.
Throughout its motion papers, BCBG also claims that Creacy was unable to articulate the
action she wanted Defendant to take to assure her safety after the incidents. See Def.’s Mem. L.
at 17. However, BCBG does not explain why this fact is legally relevant or why Creacy’s failure
to suggest remedial measures somehow relieves BCBG of its duty to take appropriate corrective
action. Moreover, BCBG is wrong that Creacy made no suggestions as to how to address the
problem. In fact, Creacy spoke with BCBG’s regional manager, Hammond, along with other
BCBG managers, about being transferred to the Greenwich store. Creacy also spoke with Joanne
Ross, BCBG’s vice president for the partner division on March 21, 2014, and she described the
two incidents to Ross and reiterated that she wanted the company to ban Peng from the store.
BCBG further argues that it had no control over Peng, who was an unknown third party,
and that the company lacked authority to ban Peng from the L&T store. The Second Circuit has
held that employers can be liable for harassment by non-employees. See Summa, 708 F.3d at
124. In accordance with Summa, the Court considers the extent of BCBG’s control of the
location and its legal responsibilities with respect to the conduct of customers. Id. “Control, in
the context of a retail establishment and an offending customer, is assessed based on the
retailer’s knowledge of the customer’s prior behavior—thus, generally, an employer is not liable
for failing to prevent an act of harassment by a first-time customer.” Swiderski v. Urban
Outfitters, Inc., No. 14 Civ.6307 (JPO), 2015 WL 3513088, at *3 (S.D.N.Y. June 4, 2015).
Here, Peng returned more than once to the store, causing a scene again on her second visit—and
Creacy challenges whether BCBG’s response to the customers’ actions was appropriate.
BCBG avers that two witnesses have testified that BCBG did not have the authority to
ban a customer from the L&T store. Defendant BCBG Maxazria Group, LLC’s Reply
Memorandum of Law in Support of its Motion for Summary Judgment (“Def.’s Reply”) (Doc.
68) at 4 (citing deposition testimony of Ross and Munoz). While it may be true that BCBG
could not “ban” a customer from the store, when questioned about the relationship between L&T
and BCBG regarding safeguarding employees, Ross stated that both stores held “joint
responsibility” for the employees, and that if BCBG determines that the host store—in this case
L&T—is not adequately protecting the BCBG employee, BCBG should communicate with L&T
at a corporate level. Ross Dep. at 28:7-19; 40:12-17. In this case, Ross did call L&T’s general
manager of the Scarsdale store, McGuiness, and McGuiness replied that the store was handling
the situation appropriately. Id. at 101:23–102:19. But Ross did not discuss banning Peng from
the store with McGuiness. Ross Dep. at 100:11–23. However, it is true that L&T routinely
issued “trespass warnings” to customers caught shoplifting and once issued a trespass warning to
an individual who made threatening and harassing remarks. O’Connell Dep. at 57:23–59:4;
59:20–60:14. These trespass warnings had the effect of banning the customers from L&T for
two years. Id. at 58:10–25. L&T had also physically removed customers who yelled or caused a
disturbance. Id. at 56:7–57:7. There is no evidence that anyone at BCBG requested any such
trespass warning to be issued to Peng.
This evidence, taken together, raises a triable issue of fact as to whether BCBG took
proper corrective action and acquiesced in creating a hostile work environment for Creacy.
Creacy sought assistance from several BCBG managers—including a corporate vice president—
and a jury may disagree as to whether BCBG took reasonable care to remedy the harassment.
Similarly, five managers knew about Creacy’s claims, but none of them notified human
resources or worked with the department to conduct an investigation. Creacy testified that
Arcuri, whom she contacted at the human resources department, never followed up with her
regarding the incident and there is no evidence in the record before the Court that the human
resources department undertook any investigation into the incidents, as required in the
company’s anti-harassment policy. Moreover, a dispute remains as to whether BCBG properly
disseminated its harassment policy and trained its employees in proper harassment procedures
and corrective actions. Finally, even if BCBG did not have the authority to ban a customer from
L&T, a question of fact also remains as to whether BCBG’s actions in failing to seek a trespass
warning was a reasonable response to the situation. Therefore, it is for the jury to determine
whether BCBG took appropriate and timely remedial action in light of the circumstances,
including the level of control and legal responsibility that BCBG had.
* * *
In sum, Creacy has offered sufficient evidence to permit a fact-finder to conclude that she
suffered from a hostile work environment predicated on race-based animus and that liability
should be imputed to BCBG. Therefore, the Court DENIES Defendant’s motion with respect to
the hostile work environment claim.
BCBG argues that Creacy has failed to prove facts sufficient to show an intolerable work
environment, much less one deliberately caused by BCBG. Def.’s Mem. L. at 22. Generally, to
assert a constructive discharge claim, a plaintiff must show that “rather than discharging him
directly, [his employer] intentionally create[d] a work atmosphere so intolerable that he [was]
forced to quit involuntarily.” Pryor v. Jaffe & Asher, LLP, 992 F. Supp. 2d 252, 261 (S.D.N.Y.
2014) (quoting Terry, 336 F.3d at 151–152). Work conditions are “intolerable” if they are so
difficult or unpleasant that a reasonable person in the employee’s shoes would have felt
compelled to resign. Whidbee, 223 F.3d at 73.
1. Intentional Creation of an Intolerable Work Environment
Creacy argues that the Supreme Court’s recent decision in Green v. Brennan, 136 S. Ct.
1769 (2016), makes clear that a constructive discharge claim does not require proof of intent on
the part of the employer. In Green, a black former Postal Service employee sued, alleging that
the Postal Service retaliated against him after he made employment-discrimination claims, and as
a result of this discrimination, he was constructively discharged. 136 S. Ct. at 1774–75. The
precise issue before the Supreme Court was when the limitations period begins to run under Title
VII. Id. at 1772. Green’s formulation of the requirements of a constructive discharge claim
would appear to differ from the standard in the Second Circuit—which requires a showing of
intent—stating that a claim for constructive discharge “comprises two basic elements:
discriminatory conduct such that a reasonable employee would have felt compelled to resign and
actual resignation.” Compare Green, 136 S. Ct. at 1772 (citing Pennsylvania State Police v.
Suders, 542 U.S. 129, 148 (2004), with Serricchio v. Wachovia Sec. LLC, 658 F.3d 169, 185 (2d
Cir. 2011) (“Constructive discharge of an employee occurs when an employer, rather than
directly discharging an individual, intentionally creates an intolerable work atmosphere that
forces an employee to quit involuntarily.”). 9
As in Green, the Supreme Court previously held in Suders that to establish a claim of constructive discharge, a
plaintiff must show not just that harassing behavior was “sufficiently severe or pervasive to alter the conditions of
[her] employment,” but also “that the abusive working environment became so intolerable that her resignation
qualified as a fitting response.” Suders, 542 U.S. at 133–34. Suders also did not directly concern the appropriate
standard for analyzing a constructive discharge claim. Instead, the Court addressed whether an affirmative defense
to constructive discharge was available to defendant–to wit, whether the employer may defend by showing that it
implemented a readily accessible and effective policy for reporting and resolving complaints of sexual harassment
and that the plaintiff unreasonably failed to avail herself of that remedial apparatus. Id. at 134.
In response, BCBG argues that the constructive discharge standard outlined in Green is
dicta. See Def.’s Mem. L. at 14 (“The ruling in Green . . . focused on statute of limitations
issues, not the substance of a constructive discharge claim.”) The Second Circuit in Nugent v. St.
Lukes–Roosevelt Hosp. Ctr., 303 F. App’x 943, 945 (2d Cir. 2008) has considered whether
Suders removed the intent element from a constructive discharge claim. In Nugent, the plaintiff
argued, relying on Suders, that the Supreme Court removed the intent element for constructive
discharge and adopted an objective test that looks only at whether a reasonable person in the
employee’s position would have felt compelled to resign. Id. The Second Circuit declined to
decide the issue, and resolved the case on other grounds, noting, “even if [plaintiff] is correct that
the Supreme Court has removed the intent element of the constructive discharge standard,
[plaintiff] introduced insufficient evidence to survive summary judgment.” Id. Following
Nugent, the Second Circuit has continued to require the element of intent when considering
constructive discharge claims. See, e.g., Serricchio, 658 F.3d at 185 (“Constructive discharge of
an employee occurs when an employer, rather than directly discharging an individual,
intentionally creates an intolerable work atmosphere that forces an employee to quit
involuntarily.”); Borski v. Staten Island Rapid Transit, 413 F. App’x 409, 411 (2d Cir. 2011) (“A
constructive discharge occurs when an employer intentionally creates a work atmosphere so
intolerable that [the plaintiff] is forced to quit involuntarily.”) (internal quotation marks and
citations omitted); see also Lisdahl v. Mayo Found., 633 F.3d 712, 719 (8th Cir. 2011) (noting
“an intent requirement is implicit in the Suders test—the Court expressly described how the
constructive discharge concept originated in the 1930’s when the National Labor Relations
Board developed the doctrine to address situations when employers deliberately forced
employees to resign by creating intolerable working conditions in retaliation for engaging in
union activities”). 10
As discussed above, it is still the law that the Second Circuit requires a showing of intent
in a constructive discharge claim. Even under this higher intent-based standard, Creacy’s claim
survives summary judgment. In any event, under the precedent that incorporates an intent
analysis, the Second Circuit has not “expressly insisted on proof of [an employer’s] specific
intent” to force an employee to quit to demonstrate constructive discharge; rather a plaintiff
needs to “at least demonstrate that the employer’s actions were ‘deliberate’ and not merely
‘negligent or ineffective.’” Petrosino, 385 F.3d at 229–30 (quoting Whidbee, 223 F.3d at 74).
Therefore, applying this analysis, a plaintiff need only establish for the first part of the
constructive-discharge test that there remains a genuine issue of material fact as to whether a
defendant acted deliberately in engaging in conduct that created the workplace conditions at
issue and “need not demonstrate that [BCBG] specifically intended for [Creacy] to quit.” Corfey
v. Rainbow Diner of Danbury, 746 F. Supp. 2d 420, 429 (D. Conn. 2010).
Here, there is evidence that BCBG deliberately failed to take actions calculated to
remediate the workplace conditions to which Creacy was subjected, including failing to ban Peng
from the store and failing to investigate the incidents as required by its policy. Indeed, while
BCBG asserts that Creacy did not inform them of the racial basis for the attack, there is ample
evidence in the record that she did make them aware of the racial nature of the incidents, and that
Ross—a corporate vice president—acknowledged that a racial incident would have been
sufficiently serious to escalate the investigation. Therefore, though it is a close case, the Court
Even after Suders, it is still the case that a Circuit split exists regarding whether to impose the additional
requirement that a plaintiff establish that his employer created the intolerable conditions with the intent to cause the
employee to resign. See Poland v. Chertoff, 494 F.3d 1174, 1184 n.7 (9th Cir. 2007) (comparing cases).
finds a genuine issue of material fact exists as to whether BCBG acted deliberately in creating an
intolerable work environment. See id. (holding that a genuine issue of material fact exists as to
whether the Defendants acted deliberately in “affirmatively deciding not to investigate or
reprimand [the harasser]”); Polidori v. Societe Generale Groupe, 39 A.D.3d 404, 406, 835
N.Y.S.2d 80 (2007) (employer may demonstrate that it did not deliberately create intolerable
working conditions by showing that it investigated an employee’s complaints and offered her
reasonable options for returning to work).
2. Forced To Involuntarily Resign
BCBG argues the mere fact that Creacy was unhappy at BCBG, including the incidents
with Peng, does not entitle her to a claim of constructive discharge. Def.’s Mem. L. at 22.
Here, the Court finds that Creacy has provided sufficient evidence at this stage that the
conditions were intolerable enough that a reasonable person in her shoes may have felt
compelled to resign. A reasonable employee may have felt compelled to quit her job if a
customer was repeatedly allowed to berate her and she felt the company was not investigating
the situation or doing enough to protect her wellbeing, especially after the first incident when she
was physically assaulted. While Creacy raised the issue up the corporate ladder and
affirmatively sought investigation and protection, a material issue of fact remains as to whether
BCBG’s response was so lacking that it caused Creacy to feel compelled to resign. The Court
therefore DENIES BCBG’s motion with respect to constructive discharge.
Public Accommodations Under NYSHRL
While Defendant purportedly seeks summary judgment on all claims, it did not contest
Creacy’s public accommodations claim under NYSHRL § 296 in its memorandum of law or
reply memorandum. Therefore, the Court DENIES Defendant’s motion for summary judgment
with respect to the public accommodations claim.
Creacy’s Request for Punitive Damages
BCBG also argues that Creacy is not entitled to punitive damages because she has alleged
no facts to suggest that BCBG acted with malice or reckless indifference.
Under Title VII and § 1981, punitive damages are limited “to cases in which the
employer has engaged in intentional discrimination and has done so ‘with malice or with reckless
indifference to the federally protected rights of an aggrieved individual.’” Kolstad v. Am. Dental
Ass’n, 527 U.S. 526, 529–30 (1999) (quoting 42 U.S.C. § 1981a(b)(1) (2012)); see also Hill v.
Airborne Freight Corp., 212 F. Supp. 2d 59, 75 (E.D.N.Y. 2002), aff’d, 93 F. App’x 260 (2d Cir.
2004) (noting punitive damages can be recovered under both Title VII and § 1981). 11 Malice
and reckless indifference refer to “‘the employer’s knowledge that it may be acting in violation
of federal law, not its awareness that it is engaging in discrimination.’” Farias v. Instructional
Sys., Inc., 259 F.3d 91, 101 (2d Cir. 2001) (quoting Kolstad, 527 U.S. at 535). A “positive
element of conscious wrongdoing” is required for an award of punitive damages. Kolstad, 527
U.S. at 538 (quoting C. McCormick, Law of Damages 280 (1935)).
BCBG argues that it has a comprehensive equal employment opportunity policy that it
tries in good faith to enforce, and that the record shows that multiple employees took the time to
speak with Creacy about her concerns and made suggestions on how to remain safe if Peng
returned. BCBG cites three cases for its proposition that punitive damages should be dismissed.
See Def.’s Mem. L. at 22-23. However, each of these cases considered the propriety of a
Creacy’s claims for punitive damages arise only under Title VII and § 1981, as “punitive damages are not
available under [New York’s] human rights law.” Chauca v. Abraham, 841 F.3d 86, 95 (2d Cir.), as amended (Nov.
8, 2016), certified question accepted, 28 N.Y.3d 1108, 68 N.E.3d 76 (2016).
punitive damages award following a trial, not at the summary judgment stage. See Wiercinski v.
Mangia 57, Inc., 787 F.3d 106, 115 (2d Cir. 2015) (affirming post-trial ruling to the extent it
vacated punitive damages award); Tepperwien v. Entergy Nuclear Operations, Inc., 663 F.3d
556, 573 (2d Cir. 2011) (after jury award of punitive damages, noting that “[e]ven where a
plaintiff establishes malice or reckless indifference, a corporate defendant may still avail itself of
an affirmative defense.”); Parrish v. Sollecito, 280 F. Supp. 2d 145, 151 (S.D.N.Y. 2003) (“At
the close of [plaintiff’s] case-in-chief, Defendants moved for judgment as a matter of law,
pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 50(a), on various issues, including punitive damages, arguing that
[plaintiff] had not presented sufficient evidence to warrant a jury award of punitive damages.”).
BCBG cites to no authority to suggest a granting of summary judgment on the punitive damages
award is appropriate under similar circumstances to the case at bar.
Here, there is sufficient evidence for the jury to consider whether BCBG acted in the face
of a perceived risk that its failure to investigate Creacy’s complaints of racial harassment
violated federal law. BCBG has 651 stores worldwide, and what it calls its “comprehensive”
equal employment opportunity and anti-harassment policy. Pl.’s R. 56.1 Rsp. ¶ 4. Thus, if it did
fail to properly investigate Creacy’s complaints, it was a sophisticated corporation with antiharassment and discrimination policies in place such that it understood that its actions could run
the risk of violating federal law. See Hill, 212 F. Supp. 2d at 76 (holding jury could reasonably
infer that defendant’s managers knew their actions violated federal law by virtue of wellestablished Supreme Court discrimination and retaliation case law, long standing statutory
prohibition against such conduct, the company’s size, and “the common knowledge in today’s
society that employment discrimination is impermissible.”) Therefore, the Court DENIES
BCBG’s request to dismiss Creacy’s demand for punitive damages at this juncture.
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