Former Employee of New York Marketing Firm Sues for Harassment, Sexual Orientation Discrimination

By LyonLabs, LLC and Barrett Lyon [CC BY 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0)], via Wikimedia CommonsA former creative director at a New York marketing firm has sued the firm, its parent company, and several individuals for alleged harassment, sexual orientation discrimination, and other claims. Anonymous v. Omnicom Group, Inc., et al., No. 1:15-cv-03440, 1st am. complaint (S.D.N.Y., Jun. 22, 2015). While the lawsuit does not specifically state a cause of action for “sexual harassment,” it describes a pattern of conduct that bears many similarities to a typical workplace sexual harassment claim. The plaintiff alleges that his supervisor subjected him to ongoing harassment and abuse based on his sexual orientation and on stereotypes about his sexual orientation. The lawsuit asserts causes of action under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the New York State Human Rights Law (NYSHRL) and other state laws, the New York City Human Rights Law (NYCHRL), and common law.

In April 2011, the plaintiff, “an openly gay male,” Omnicom, complaint at 3, began working for DDB Worldwide Communications Group (“DDB”), a marketing communications company based in New York City. The plaintiff states that he is HIV-positive, but he kept his condition private throughout his employment. His allegations of harassment center on one particular supervisor. According to the plaintiff’s complaint, this supervisor has been the subject of several harassment complaints, both internal and to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), by female and gay male employees.

The plaintiff claims that the supervisor was “openly resentful and hostile towards Plaintiff because of his sexual orientation.” Id. at 10. The supervisor allegedly drew “offensive sketches and creat[ed] other pictures of Plaintiff in a sexually suggestive manner,” id., and then distributed them around the office and posted them online. He also allegedly accused the plaintiff of having AIDS in the presence of others in the office on numerous occasions.

This conduct allegedly continued for years. The employer, according to the plaintiff, refused to remove the offensive images from Facebook, and the supervisor allegedly refused to retract his claim about the plaintiff having AIDS. The plaintiff filed a complaint with the EEOC, which eventually resulted in the removal of some offensive images in January 2015. The employer allegedly asked the plaintiff to accept a three-month severance in March 2015, which he claims was solely in retaliation for the EEOC complaint.

The plaintiff’s amended complaint asserts 12 causes of action, including disability discrimination based on his HIV-positive status as well as constructive discharge in violation of the ADA. He claims “stereotypical animus” by the defendants in violation of Title VII, in addition to sexual orientation discrimination and disability discrimination under the NYSHRL. His cause of action for harassment under the NYCHRL, N.Y.C. Admin. Code § 8-107, claims “a hostile and abusive work environment” that included “offensive, vulgar and crude comments and pictures depicting his sexual orientation.” Omnicom, complaint at 21.

The LGBT harassment lawyers at Phillips & Associates represent New York City employees, former employees, and job seekers in claims for sexual harassment and other violations of city, state, or federal employment statutes. To schedule a free and confidential consultation with a member of our team, contact us online or at (212) 248-7431 today.

More Blog Posts:

Former New York Prison Guard Awarded Nearly $1 Million in Sexual Harassment Suit, New York Employment Attorney Blog, January 27, 2013

New York Man Alleges Pro-Gay Discrimination in Lawsuit Against Former Employer, New York Employment Attorney Blog, June 14, 2012

Protection Against Transgender Discrimination in Employment is Available to Some Employees, but Not All, New York Employment Attorney Blog, October 19, 2011

Photo credit: By LyonLabs, LLC and Barrett Lyon [CC BY 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons.

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