Sexual Harassment Lawsuit Against New York City Hospital Asserts Claims for Infliction of Emotional Distress, Slander

Lenox_Hill_Hospital_77th_Street_side-2.jpgA federal lawsuit against a Manhattan hospital and a former supervisor alleges sexual harassment and retaliation under federal, state, and municipal laws. In addition, the lawsuit asserts common-law tort claims for negligent hiring, retention, and supervision against the hospital, and for intentional and negligent infliction of emotional distress and slander per se against the supervisor. Misas, et al v. North Shore-Long Island Jewish Health System, et al, No. 1:14-cv-08787, complaint (S.D.N.Y., Nov. 4, 2014). These types of claims often accompany discrimination or harassment claims brought under employment statutes.

The plaintiffs, who worked as emergency room registrars at Lenox Hill Hospital, allege that two supervisors began subjecting them to unwanted sexual remarks and advances in July 2012. A complaint to a union representative allegedly resulted in one supervisor’s termination. This in turn led to a hostile work environment from numerous co-workers, including threats and harassment, and direct retaliation by the remaining supervisor.

The lawsuit’s common-law claims are governed by state law, but they may be added to a federal lawsuit under federal supplemental jurisdiction. 28 U.S.C. ยง 1367(a). A negligent infliction of emotional distress (NIED) claim in New York requires proof that (1) the defendant owed the plaintiff a duty of care and (2) breached that duty, and that (3) this caused actual and foreseeable harm to the plaintiff (4) in the form of “severe emotional distress.” Dana v. Oak Park Marina, 230 A.D.2d 204, 207, 660 N.Y.S.2d 906 (4th Dept. 1997).

For a claim of intentional infliction of emotional distress (IIED), a plaintiff must also prove a causal connection between his or her severe emotional distress and the defendant’s conduct. Instead of showing a breach of a duty of care, however, IIED requires proof of “extreme and outrageous conduct” with intent to cause distress, or disregard of the likelihood of causing such distress. Wait v. Beck’s North America, Inc., 241 F.Supp.2d 172, 180-81 (N.D.N.Y. 2003), citing Graupner v. Roth, 293 A.D.2d 408, 410, 742 N.Y.S.2d 208 (1st Dept. 2002).

A negligent hiring claim requires proof of three elements: (1) the employer had knowledge of an employee’s “propensity for the sort of behavior which caused the injured party’s harm”; (2) the employer “placed the employee in a position to cause foreseeable harm”; and (3) the plaintiff’s injuries would not have occurred but for the employer placing the employee in that position. Detone v. Bullit Courier Serv. Inc., 140 A.D.2d 278, 279 (N.Y. App., 1st Dept. 1988).

Slander and its written counterpart, libel, require proof that a defendant made a false statement about the plaintiff to others, with knowledge of its falsity, resulting in financial damages to the plaintiff. Slander per se requires a higher standard of proof, and it only applies to specific types of statements, including “statements…that tend to injure another in his or her trade, business, or profession.” Yonaty v. Mincolla, 97 A.D.3d 141, 144, 945 N.Y.S.2d 774 (3rd Dept. 2012), quoting Liberman v. Gelstein, 80 N.Y.2d 429, 435 (1992)

Phillips & Associates’ employment discrimination attorneys fight for the rights of New York City workers in claims for sexual harassment, retaliation, and other unlawful employment practices. Contact us today online or at (212) 248-7431 to schedule a free and confidential consultation with a knowledgeable and skilled legal advocate.

More Blog Posts:

Former New York City Schoolteacher Settles Sexual Harassment Lawsuit for $115,000, New York Employment Attorney Blog, December 30, 2014
Report Shows Restaurant Servers Endure Sexual Harassment at Alarming Rates, New York Employment Attorney Blog, December 10, 2014
Sexual Harassment Complaint Resulted in Retaliation, According to New York State Agency Employee’s Lawsuit, New York Employment Attorney Blog, October 29, 2014
Photo credit: By Daniel Case, derivative work: Niklem [CC BY-SA 3.0 or GFDL], via Wikimedia Commons.

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