Sexual harassment in the workplace violates federal anti-discrimination laws, as well as many state statutes and city ordinances. An individual seeking to assert a claim for sexual harassment, hostile work environment, or similar claims must decide which statute or statutes to cite. The choice of law can be a complicated issue, and it can depend on both legal and geographic factors. Fortunately for many or most workers alleging employment discrimination in New York City, the New York City Human Rights Law (NYCHRL) offers some of the broadest protections of any law in the country. State law in New York is less expansive but still more comprehensive than federal law. A lawsuit currently pending in a state court in California, Scott v. Upload, Inc., et al., No. CGC-17-558730, complaint (Cal. Super. Ct., San Francisco Cty., May 8, 2017), offers a view of how state laws dealing with sexual harassment can differ from one another. It also illustrates how allegations of sexual harassment can affect an entire industry. Much like New York City’s financial sector, the tech industry in Northern California seems to produce an ongoing series of sexual harassment lawsuits.
The main anti-discrimination statute covering the entire United States is Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits discrimination based on “race, color, religion, sex, or national origin.” 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-2(a). At the state level, the New York State Human Rights Law includes additional factors like marital status and sexual orientation. N.Y. Exec. L. § 296(1)(a). Multiple Supreme Court and New York court decisions have established that sexual harassment constitutes unlawful sex discrimination. The Scott lawsuit cites the California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) in support of its claims. The FEHA goes a step further than both Title VII and the NYSHRL by codifying harassment and a failure by an employer to prevent harassment as distinct unlawful acts. Cal. Gov’t Code § 12940(j).
The plaintiff in Scott worked for the defendant, a technology company based in San Francisco, from May 2016 to March 2017 as the “Director of Digital and Social Media.” Scott, complaint at 3. She identifies two individuals as co-founders and executives of the defendant, and she alleges that they “expressly referred to the company as a ‘boy’s club.’” Id. at 4. Male employees allegedly spoke openly in the office about their “sexual exploits,” id., and made overt sexual comments about female employees in their presence. Sexually charged dialogue also “permeated work emails,” according to the plaintiff. She further alleges that “male employees engaged in explicit sexual conduct in the office” in her and other female employees’ presence. Id. at 5. Shortly after complaining about this alleged conduct, the plaintiff was terminated.
In addition to the allegations involving sexual remarks and conduct, the plaintiff claims that the defendant “allow[ed]…drug use at the office.” Id. Male employees allegedly used marijuana during work and also “microdosed,” which involves ingesting small amounts of psychedelic drugs like LSD. If female employees refused to participate in drug use, the plaintiff claims that “they were further ostracized.” Id. The lawsuit asserts claims for sexual harassment and hostile work environment against all of the defendants, as well as a claim against the company under the FEHA for “failure to prevent harassment.” Id. at 12.
The sexual harassment attorneys at Phillips & Associates advocate for the rights of job applicants, employees, and former employees in New York City. To schedule a free and confidential consultation to see how our team can assist you, contact us today online or at (212) 248-7431.
More Blog Posts:
Coworking Spaces in New York City and Elsewhere Present Challenges for Sexual Harassment Claims, New York Employment Attorney Blog, August 29, 2017
New York Court Revives Gender Discrimination Claim of ‘Too Cute’ Employee, New York Employment Attorney Blog, August 25, 2017
New York Hotel Employees File Sexual Harassment Lawsuit, New York Employment Attorney Blog, August 10, 2017