New York City Lawsuit Alleges Sexual Harassment, Other Forms of Discrimination

New York CityA former employee of a New York City medical marijuana company is suing the company for multiple causes of action under state and city laws. JP v. TO, et al., No. 158407/2016, complaint (N.Y. Sup. Ct., N.Y. Cty., Oct. 6, 2016). The plaintiff alleges that she was subjected to sexual harassment, that she faced discrimination based on her religion and her health status, and that the company terminated her in retaliation for complaining about these acts. In addition to the business entity, the defendants include several individual owners, directors, and officers of the company.

Laws at the city and state levels in New York City prohibit employment discrimination on a wide range of bases, including sex, religion, and disability. Under both the New York State Human Rights Law (NYSHRL) and the New York City Human Rights Law (NYCHRL), sexual harassment is considered to be unlawful sex discrimination. Both statutes define “disability” in this context to include “a physical, mental or medical impairment,” and the NYCHRL also adds psychological impairments to the list. N.Y. Exec. L. § 292(21), N.Y.C. Admin. Code. § 8-102(16). They both generally define an “impairment” as arising from a physiological or neurological condition, as well as a psychological or mental condition in the case of the NYCHRL.

The plaintiff worked for the defendant as an “in-house consultant and project manager.” JP, complaint at 3. She describes herself as a Roman Catholic and a “female survivor of cancerous PASH,” a type of breast cancer. Her condition “cause[s] her a large degree of pain and discomfort” and “requir[es] her to take prescribed painkillers and muscle relaxers periodically.” Id. at 4. Her job responsibilities, according to her complaint, included licensing and compliance with state medical cannabis laws, project management, and various business planning and development activities. She alleges a variety of actions that violated state and federal laws.

According to the plaintiff’s complaint, one of the company’s owners, whom she named as a defendant, “has a serious drug addiction” and “constantly harassed [her] to give him pain medication.” Id. She alleges that this developed from verbal harassment over medications to physical altercations and theft. She further claims that he subjected her to sexual harassment and routinely mocked and belittled her medical condition. Complaints about this behavior reportedly never resulted in any remedial action by the company’s management.

The plaintiff also alleges that several other individuals within the company mocked her for her religious observances, such as her attendance at Ash Wednesday services, and also engaged in sexual harassment in various forms. After multiple complaints, she claims, “she was given menial tasks and ultimately stripped of all her duties.” Id. at 16. She was formally terminated in August 2016, although she claims that she had “received virtually no work” for months. Id. at 17.

The lawsuit alleges causes of action for sexual harassment, religious discrimination, disability discrimination, and retaliation under the NYSHRL and the NYCHRL. She also alleges violations of state wage laws, N.Y. Lab. L. § 191, and breach of contract.

At Phillips & Associates, our experienced and skilled disability discrimination attorneys advocate for the rights of employees, job applicants, and former employees in the New York City area, helping them assert claims for sexual harassment and other unlawful forms of workplace discrimination. Contact us online or at (212) 248-7431 today to schedule a free and confidential consultation to discuss your case with a member of our team.

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New York Legislation Addresses Sexual Harassment in Small Companies, Reasonable Accommodations for Pregnant Workers, New York Employment Attorney Blog, June 25, 2015

Photo credit: William Warby (originally posted to Flickr as New York Skyline) [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons.

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