271 F.3d 352 (2nd Cir. 2001), 00-7617, Cush-Crawford v Adchem Corp.

Docket Nº:Docket Nos. 00-7617, 00-7745
Citation:271 F.3d 352
Case Date:November 16, 2001
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit

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271 F.3d 352 (2nd Cir. 2001)




Docket Nos. 00-7617, 00-7745

United States Court of Appeals, Second Circuit

November 16, 2001

Argued: January 18, 2001

Defendant-employer and plaintiff-employee each appeal from the judgment of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York (Arthur D. Spatt, J.) awarding plaintiff the statutory maximum of $100,000 in punitive damages on plaintiff's claim of sexual harassment - hostile work environment, but awarding neither compensatory nor nominal damages. The Court of Appeals (Leval, J.) holds that, in a case under Title VII, an award of compensatory or nominal damages is not a prerequisite to an award of punitive damages. Affirmed.

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Ira G. Rosenstein (Siobhan A. Handley and Cathleen O'Donnell, on the brief), Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe Llp, New York, N.Y., for defendant-appellant-cross-appellee.

Charmaine M. Stewart, Esq. (Nadira Stewart, on the brief), Elmont, N.Y., for plaintiff-appellee-cross-appellant.

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Julie L. Gantz (c. Gregory Stewart, Philip B. Sklover, and Vincent J. Blackwood, on the brief), Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, as amicus curiae in support of plaintiff-appellee.

Before: Newman, Leval, and Sack, Circuit Judges.

Leval, Circuit Judge

Defendant Adchem Corporation appeals from the judgment of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York (Arthur D. Spatt, J.), entered after a jury verdict in favor of plaintiff Tonia Cush-Crawford on her claim for sexual harassment -hostile work environment brought under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e. Plaintiff cross-appeals from the judgment insofar as it failed to award compensatory damages. We find no error requiring reversal. We write to clarify that in this Circuit a Title VII plaintiff may recover limited statutory punitive damages absent an award of either actual or nominal damages.


On June 16, 1993, defendant Adchem hired plaintiff Tonia Cush-Crawford as a laboratory technician. Adchem owned and operated two adhesive tape manufacturing plants in Westbury and Riverhead, New York, employing approximately 150 persons.

Cush-Crawford was hired to work at the Westbury plant, where she reported to a laboratory supervisor named Collin Mars. Mars had interviewed Cush-Crawford for the position. Cush-Crawford testified that Mars began to contact her even before she appeared for work at Adchem. In the week prior to the start of her employment, he called her several times at her home, saying that he was in Florida and asking her whether she was excited about starting the job. Within Cush-Crawford's first week on the job, Mars began to tell her that she looked beautiful and that he loved the dresses she wore. He would page her over the intercom, and when she called back he would ask her what she was doing later. Cush-Crawford having disclosed in her interview that she liked to work out at a gym, Mars repeatedly asked her whether she would like to go to the gym with him after work. Cush-Crawford testified that at the beginning she said no, but that Mars did not stop asking. She also testified that Mars began complaining about her work performance, and that she believed that his complaints were tied to her refusals to go out with him. As a result, Cush-Crawford eventually went to the gym with Mars on one or two occasions.

Two or three weeks into her employment at Adchem, Mars asked Cush-Crawford to go to Toronto with him to attend a Caribbean festival. Cush-Crawford testified that initially she refused to go, but that she agreed after a few days because Mars "would remind [her]" of the "weekly evaluation" that he controlled as her supervisor. Cush-Crawford further testified that Mars's behavior toward her changed and that his evaluations of her work improved after she agreed to go to the festival with him.

Cush-Crawford and Mars drove to Toronto early on a Saturday morning sometime in late July or August of 1993. Cush-Crawford expected to have her own room. Instead, Mars informed her that only one room was available in the bed and breakfast. Cush-Crawford testified that after the carnival that night, Mars tried to kiss her and touch her breasts, but that she pulled away, and that Mars did not bother her again during the remainder of the weekend. After returning from Canada,

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Mars began to comment negatively on Cush-Crawford's work habits.

Approximately one week after the trip to Canada, Mars asked Cush-Crawford to go on a second trip with him, this time a one-day trip to Boston for another carnival. Cush-Crawford testified that although she initially said no, she eventually changed her mind and agreed to go, in fear that if she did not, she would not survive Adchem's three-month probation period. On the drive back from Boston, Mars claimed that he was too tired to drive and pulled off the highway into a motel. He booked one room, and once inside the room told Cush-Crawford that he "wanted to make love." Cush-Crawford testified that when she refused, Mars told her that he had hired her and that he could also fire her. Upon their return to work, Mars once again complained about her work performance.

Around August 24, 1993, Mars and Cush-Crawford went out for Cush-Crawford's birthday. Cush-Crawford testified that she agreed to do so because she did not want to get a bad evaluation. At dinner, Mars again told...

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