A lawsuit filed in New York’s Nassau County Supreme Court alleges multiple causes of action under state employment law, including whistleblower retaliation and sexual harassment. Menghini v. Neurological Surgery, P.C., et al., complaint, No. 602327/2015 (N.Y. Sup. Ct., Nassau Co., Apr. 14, 2015). The case is notable for demonstrating how sexual harassment claims can arise from other employment law matters. The plaintiff describes a work environment in her complaint that was, she alleges, generally hostile to female employees. She further alleges that several defendants, all of whom are neurosurgeons, used harassment on the basis of sex as a means of retaliating against her after she reported concerns about the quality of care patients were receiving.
The plaintiff began working for the defendants, four neurosurgeons and their practice, as a physician’s assistant in 2007. She states that she performed her job duties well, citing as evidence her eight years of employment with the defendants and her advancement within the business. The sexual harassment allegedly began in 2010, after she was transferred from the night shift to the day shift. The doctor who acted as her direct supervisor “conducted himself in a highly inappropriate and misogynistic manner,” she claims. Menghini, complaint at 5.
The plaintiff also allegedly observed that the doctor “often engaged in what she believed were risky medical procedures that were clearly not in the best interests of his patients.” Id. at 6. She eventually reported her concerns to another doctor in the practice, who she says was “entirely dismissive of her concerns.” Id. at 8. After this, her supervising doctor allegedly began treating her “with increasing levels of hostility and sexually explicit harassment.” Id. at 9. At one point, she claims that the doctor stabbed her with a needle near the end of a surgical procedure, “either with specific intent or because he was acting recklessly.” Id. at 10. The doctor to whom she had reported her concerns eventually transferred her but did not investigate her complaints or reprimand the doctor.
The transfer did not put an end to the harassment, according to the plaintiff. She claims that she received hostile and harassing treatment from other doctors in the practice. She also noted concerns about her new supervising doctor’s quality of care. Soon after she reported her concerns, she was terminated. Her employment contract provided for eight weeks of severance pay, but she alleges that the defendant tried to withhold the severance pay unless she agreed to release all other legal claims.
The plaintiff’s lawsuit asserts claims for discrimination, harassment, and retaliation under the New York State Human Rights Law, N.Y. Exec. L. § 296. It also claims whistleblower retaliation, N.Y. Lab. L. § 215; retaliation by a health care employer, N.Y. Lab. L. § 741; and breach of contract. The plaintiff states that she intends to file a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) in preparation for a federal lawsuit.
The sexual harassment attorneys at Phillips & Associates represent employees and job seekers in the greater New York City area in claims for sexual harassment and other violations of city, state, or federal employment statutes. To schedule a free and confidential consultation to see how we can help you, contact us today online or at (212) 248-7431.
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New Harvard University Policy Demonstrates a Different Side of Sexual Harassment Law, New York Employment Attorney Blog, April 8, 2015
Photo credit: By U.S. Navy, photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Timothy Wilson [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons