Pennsylvania Record

Wednesday, April 8, 2020

Judge refuses to dismiss sexual harassment suit against

Attorneys & Judges

By David Beasley | Mar 11, 2020

Sexual harassment

PHILADELPHIA (Legal Newsline) - A federal judge has refused to dismiss a sexual harassment lawsuit against a law firm by a former employee.

“A reasonable jury could thus find that [the plaintiff] was subjected to a hostile work environment and discrimination on the basis of sex,” U.S. District Judge Wendy Beetlestone ruled Feb. 28.

In the lawsuit, Kimberley Hayes, a paralegal at the law firm Silvers, Langsam & Weitzman, P.C claimed she was “subjected to a hostile work environment based upon her sex on an almost weekly basis,” according to the ruling. When she complained to the lead paralegal, Hayes says she was told “you have to get used to it.” 

After two months on the job, Hayes was fired for allegedly misrepresenting the firm’s involvement in a real estate matter.

In seeking dismissal of the case, the law firm “suggests that, to the extent Hayes was having issues with coworkers, these issues were not sexual in nature,” and “implies that Hayes fabricated her allegations in response to her termination," the opinion says.

The law firm argues that Hayes had not established a prima facia case of sexual harassment because “three discreet incidents of merely crude comments cannot constitute ‘severe or pervasive’ conduct that would detrimentally affect a reasonable woman in her position,” the ruling said.

But Beetlestone held that Hayes “alleges she was regularly harassed and identifies at least seven incidents within an eight-week period, as well as regular unwanted touching. If true, these incidents could constitute ‘severe and pervasive’ harassment."

Hayes produced text messages “sent well before the inception of this litigation suggesting that she was having issues with attorneys at the firm,” the judge held.

Although the law firm claims Hayes is not credible and none of her allegations should be believed, “it is inappropriate for a court to resolve factual disputes and to make credibility determinations” in deciding a motion for summary judgment, Beetlestone ruled.

“Because material facts remain in dispute, Defendant’s motion for summary judgment shall be denied,” she wrote.

  Hayes v. Silvers, Langsam & Weitzman, P.C. U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Pennsylvania  2:2019cv00940

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U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania