Lawsuit Alleges Pregnancy Discrimination, Sexual Harassment Against Media Company

Sunset Blvd.Employment laws across the country prohibit discrimination on the basis of sex. The legal definition of sex discrimination has grown over the years to encompass a wide range of conduct and disparate treatment that affects workers because of their sex. This includes both sexual harassment and pregnancy discrimination. The entertainment industry comprises a major part of New York City’s culture and economy, but it also remains the setting for a significant amount of sex discrimination. This is true on both sides of the country. A lawsuit filed late last year against a major media company in California, Taylor v. OWN, alleges both sexual harassment and pregnancy discrimination. The case is additionally notable because both the plaintiff and the alleged perpetrator are women. This type of alleged harassment tends to receive less media attention.

All 50 states, the District of Columbia and other U.S. territories, and the federal government have laws prohibiting sex discrimination in the workplace. The New York State Human Rights Law (NYSHRL) expressly mentions sex and “familial status” as protected categories. N.Y. Exec. L. § 296(1)(a). The statute prohibits employers from requiring pregnant employees to take leave against their will in most circumstances, and it goes further than many anti-discrimination statutes by requiring employers to provide “reasonable accommodations” for “known…pregnancy-related conditions.” Id. at §§ 296(1)(g), (3)(a).

California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) covers the same legal ground as the NYSHRL. Its list of protected categories includes sex, and it defines “harassment because of sex” to include both sexual harassment and pregnancy discrimination in many situations. Cal. Gov’t Code §§ 12940(a), (j)(4)(C). It requires employers to offer up to four months of leave to “female employee[s] disabled by pregnancy, childbirth, or a related medical condition.” Id. at § 12945(a)(1).

The plaintiff in the Taylor case worked in the deliverables and fulfillment services department of a company founded by a prominent media personality. She alleges that her direct supervisor began harassing her in early 2013, when she was about three months pregnant. The supervisor allegedly began staff meetings, at which attendance was mandatory, by discussing horror movies and acting out sex scenes from those films. The plaintiff claims that the supervisor made inappropriate comments directed at her, some of which were sexual in nature and some of which were allegedly intended to shame her for her pregnancy or for nursing her child. In December 2014, the plaintiff alleges, the conduct escalated to the realm of sexual assault when the supervisor attempted to squeeze her breasts during a discussion related to breastfeeding.

When the defendant promoted the plaintiff to manager, she claims that it did not give her the same raise offered to others. She alleges that this was retaliation by the supervisor for speaking out about the harassment. The defendant, she claims, took no action in response to her complaints. The plaintiff took leave from work beginning in July 2015 and was out for close to a year. After her return to work, she filed suit in Los Angeles County Superior Court, asserting claims for sexual harassment, pregnancy discrimination, and retaliation under the FEHA.

At Phillips & Associates, our experienced and skilled pregnancy discrimination lawyers advocate on behalf of employees, former employees, and job seekers in New York City, helping them assert claims for unlawful practices like sexual harassment and pregnancy discrimination. Contact us online or at (212) 248-7431 today to schedule a free and confidential consultation to discuss your case.

More Blog Posts:

New York City Lawsuit Includes Allegations of Sexual Harassment and Pregnancy Discrimination, New York Employment Attorney Blog, April 27, 2017

New York City Employment Laws Help Employees Assert Their Rights on a Level Playing Field, New York Employment Attorney Blog, February 2, 2017

Paid Family Leave Statute to Take Effect in New York in 2018, New York Employment Attorney Blog, January 12, 2017

Photo credit: Alan Light (Sunset Blvd. Uploaded by MaybeMaybeMaybe) [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons.

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