Court Revives Verizon Gender Bias Suit

August 18, 2010 (PLANSPONSOR.com) – A federal appellate court has breathed new life into a gender discrimination lawsuit by a female field technician for Verizon Communications who claimed two supervisors created a hostile working environment for women.

The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals declared that U.S. District Judge Paul G. Gardephe of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York was wrong when he dismissed plaintiff Joan Pucino’s suit, and sent the matter back to Gardephe for further hearings.

Writing for the appellate court, Circuit Judge Ralph K. Winter asserted that Pucino had presented a strong and compelling enough case that virtually constant abuse from two Verizon supervisors at her Newburgh, New York, garage constituted a hostile working environment under federal discrimination laws. Gardephe, in granting Verizon’s request to threw out Pucino’s claim, concluded that the challenged conduct amounted to nothing more than minor annoyances and inconveniences, Winter said.

According to Winter, Pucino’s suit alleged that the abuse originated with Verizon supervisors Justin Hinspeter and Kevin Moore who Pucino claimed, among other things: 

  • Repeatedly verbally abused her in front of other employees;
  • Forced her to work alone in unsafe areas;
  • Denied her proper tools and equipment; and 
  • Reprimanded her for using public restrooms rather than those provided on a job site that were dirty and unlocked.

At one point, according to Winter’s decision, Pucino’s complaint to the company’s discrimination hotline prompted a public outburst from Moore in which he declared that company investigators “are going to come into our garage, take over our garage. Every word is going to be scrutinized.  You are going to be followed, and the garage will never be the same.” Two days later, a large dead snake was placed in Pucino’s work truck, according to the decision.

The case is Joan Pucino vs. Verizon Communications Inc., 2nd Cir. 09-1306.

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