Judge Charles Siragusa
Hired as a customer service employee, Howard was administrative assistant for defendant manufacturer’s CEO Cannon from 2008 until May 2009, when she was transferred to customer service. The transfer was allegedly in retaliation for rebuffing Cannon’s sexual advances and for complaining about Cannon’s behavior to human resources. Howard’s complaint to the state’s human rights agency alleged Cannon told her he wanted to make love to her, continuously commented about sex, and “tapped [her] on [her] butt and tried to kiss her more than once.” The court denied Cannon summary judgment in Howard’s suit alleging discrimination and retaliation violating Title VII. Not only did fact issues exist if the harassment allegedly experienced by Howard was severe and pervasive, an issue existed whether she experienced retaliation. In addition to denying Cannon’s claim that she requested the transfer, Howard contended the transfer was, in effect, a demotion given its lack of opportunities for advancement and when compared against her position as Cannon’s executive administrative assistant. On the facts, the court determined that Howard made a prima facie showing that she experienced an adverse retaliatory act.