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Hostile work environment case against housing agency reinstated

Posted On: Feb. 23, 2023 2:16 PM CST


A federal appeals court on Thursday reinstated a hostile work environment case filed by a former New York City Housing Authority housing manager who claimed her employment problems began when a former New York City Council speaker demanded her unit hire a Spanish-speaking manager.

Allison Williams, who is African-American, worked for the NYCHA from 1984 until her retirement in 2017, according to the ruling by the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New York in Allison Williams v. New York City Housing Authority et al.

After rising through the ranks over two decades, she became the housing manager of Mill Brook Houses in the Bronx in 2006, the ruling said.

In 2015, Melissa Mark-Viverito, then speaker of the New York City Council, requested a meeting with NYCHA at which she allegedly demanded a Spanish-speaking manager be hired at the facility. After that meeting, ultimately unsuccessful efforts were made to have Ms. Williams transferred, according to the decision.

Ms. Williams alleged that her supervisors then attempted to sabotage her work, including by deliberately neglecting to replace four assistants.

Ms. Williams resigned in May 2017, then filed suit in U.S. District Court in New York, charging the housing authority, Ms. Mark-Viverito and other officials with creating a hostile work environment.

The district court dismissed the case, which was reinstated by a unanimous three-judge appeals court panel.

At summary judgment “a district court must credit all factual inferences that could rationally be drawn in Williams’s favor, and the court failed to do so,” the ruling said.

“Williams raised several triable issues of material fact and as such, summary judgment was inappropriate,”  the panel said, in reinstating the case and remanding it for further proceedings.

Ms. Williams’ attorney said he was happy with the ruling, while other attorneys did not respond or could not be reached.