United States District Court, D. New Jersey
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
G. SHERIDAN, U.S.D.J.
matter comes before the Court on Defendants' Motion for
Summary Judgment (ECF No. 20) based on this Court's
diversity jurisdiction. This case arises from workplace
sexual harassment claims that a woman has alleged against her
former employer. Because there are genuine disputes of
material fact regarding the severity and pervasiveness of her
employer's conduct, as well as whether the plaintiff,
herself, engaged in sexually inappropriate conduct,
Defendants' summary judgment motion is denied.
Atrion Communication Resources, Inc. ("Atrion") is
an IT consulting company. (Am. Compl. ¶ 1, ECF No. 11).
Plaintiff, Veronica Paige ("Paige"), began working
for Atrion in February 2007 and resigned from her position in
December 2016. (Id. at ¶ 4; Defs.'
Statement of Material Facts ("SOMF") ¶ 33, ECF
No. 20-1). Paige primarily worked as a receptionist, but also
performed marketing and various administrative tasks at
Paige was employed with Atrion, Defendant Pasquale
"Pat" Grillo ("Grillo") was the CEO,
President, and Founder of Atrion, and served as Paige's
general supervisor. (Am. Compl. ¶ 5; Defs.' SOMF
¶ 2). Throughout her employment at Atrion, Paige alleges
that Grillo subjected her to "explicit and
overwhelming" sexual harassment. (Am. Compl. ¶ 5).
is a list of the specific incidents of sexual harassment
Paige alleges that Grillo engaged in during her employment,
which were addressed directly at Paige or in her presence.
• In 2007, a few months after Paige began employment,
Paige was called into Grillo's office because he wanted
to show her something on his computer. (Am. Compl. ¶ 6).
When Paige looked at the computer screen, she saw a
pornographic video of a woman performing oral sex on a man.
(Id. at ¶ 7). Paige expressed that she did not
want to see the video and walked out of Grillo's office.
(Id. at ¶ 8).
• When Paige began working at Atrion, she drove a Hummer
SUV. (Id. at ¶ 8). Grillo made daily sexual
remarks about Paige's vehicle, such as, "I could go
for a Hummer, do you want to give me one?" (Id.
at ¶ 10). A "hummer" is a colloquial term for
fellatio. (Id. at ¶ ID-
• During the summer months, when Paige wore skirts to
work, Grillo would make unwelcome sexually suggestive
comments to her, such as that he wished he was sitting under
Paige's desk. (Id. at ¶ 12).
• While Paige and Grillo were at lunch one day, Grillo
informed Paige that the only reason he hired her was because
she had large breasts and that other women applicants who had
applied for Paige's position did not. (Id. at
• In or about September 2014, while Grillo's wife
was out of town, Paige was talking with Jennifer Farlow
("Ms. Farlow"), Atrion's Human Resources
Manager, when Grillo approached them and said, "Well,
since Roz [Grillo's wife] is away, I think we should have
a threesome. Let's close the door; I would love to see
you two go at it." (Id. at ¶ 14).
• In or about March 2015, Grillo's accountant's
wife came in the office and commented on Grillo's weight,
to which he replied, "I lost some [weight] but I'm
trying to get [Plaintiff] to have sex with me for more
exercise." (Id. at ¶ 17).
• In or about February 2015, Grillo's granddaughters
visited Atrion's office, and after he asked his
granddaughters for a kiss and hug, he turned to Plaintiff and
said, "Oh, is that ok or will I get sued for that?"
(Id. at ¶ 19).
• In or about June 2015, on Plaintiff's birthday,
Grillo stated, "Oh, happy birthday. I'll take one
for the team and have birthday sex with you."
(Id. at ¶ 20).
• In or about July 2015, Plaintiff had bananas sitting
on her desk and offered one to Grillo; Grillo responded,
"No, but I have a banana for you and it's cream
filled," suggesting a sexual innuendo regarding
ejaculation. (Id. at ¶ 21).
• On or about November 23, 2015, Grillo walked through
one of the office doors, held a banana up, and said,
"Ohh, I want to shoot you with my banana," which
Plaintiff claims also suggested a sexual innuendo regarding
ejaculation. (Id. at ¶ 24).
• On or about December 14, 2015, there was a company
manager's meeting. (Id. at ¶ 25). Grillo
and an Atrion co-worker were standing at Paige's desk
when Grillo stated, "I don't enjoy coming to work
anymore. You can't even joke around without getting sued.
It's not fun coming here anymore." (Id. at
¶ 26). Plaintiff responded and said, "Join the
crowd. I'm always cranky." (Id. at ¶
27). Grillo then responded, "Well, I can uncrank
you!" which was an innuendo suggesting that he would
have sex with her. (Id. at ¶ 28).
• On or about December 17, 2015, Paige was speaking with
a co-worker when Grillo stated, "Well, I think we should
go have some drinks and then have some sex, what do you
think?" (Mat ¶ 29).
• On or about March 20, 2016, Paige went into
Grillo's office to use his computer and while Paige was
typing, Grillo expressed that he was tired. (Id. at
¶ 30). Paige replied that she read about companies that
put cots under employees' desks for employees to take
naps. (Id.). Grillo stated, in response, "I
wish there was a girl under my desk right now, and I
don't even care if she spits. I'll just have the
carpets cleaned." (Id.). Grillo was allegedly
referring to a woman spitting out semen while performing
• On one occasion (it is unclear precisely when), Grillo
rubbed Paige's shoulders in an inappropriate fashion.
(Pl.'s Statement of Material Facts ("SOMF")
¶ 23, ECF No. 11). Grillo's wife, Rosalind Grillo
("Roz Grillo"), apparently saw this and hit Grillo
in the head in a non-violent, playful manner to reprimand
Paige claims that Pat Grillo's frequent sexual harassment
created an intimidating, hostile, and offensive work
environment. (Am. Compl. ¶ 32).
alleges that on one occasion, she reported to her direct
supervisor Grillo's sexually inappropriate remarks and
conduct, but that her supervisor took no action and instead
proceeded to tell her about Grillo's alleged history of
sexually harassing women in the workplace. (Pl.'s SOMF
¶ 19). On another occasion, Paige claims that she
reported the "cream-filled banana" comment to
another supervisor, but her supervisor informed her that
there was nothing that could be done because Grillo was the
owner of the company, but that if it were the
supervisor's decision, he would have fired Grillo by now.
(Id. at ¶ 34). Therefore, based on her
supervisors' comments, Paige claims that she had no
reasonable expectation that a complaint to Human Resources
would result in any action to stop Grillo's sexual
harassment. (Am. Compl. ¶ 6).
has denied that he made the vast majority of the
sexually-laced comments Paige has alleged and that engaged in
such conduct, and explains that in the few instances in which
he did make such comments, they were made in jest and were
not intended to denote anything sexual. (See
generally Certification of Sebastian Ionno ("Ionno
Cert."), Pl.'s Ex. 6, ...