A New York City-based cable news network that has been no stranger to sexual harassment allegations is facing another lawsuit by a host. The complaint, filed in early December 2019, notes that the network has paid more than $100 million to settle sexual harassment claims in recent years. The network’s troubles pre-date the #MeToo movement, which largely originated in Hollywood, by more than a year. A former news anchor filed suit against the network in July 2016, and within two weeks, at least seven more women came forward with accounts of sexual harassment. The network’s longtime CEO and chairman resigned several days later. The network settled the first lawsuit in September 2016, but more allegations and lawsuits followed. The allegations include both quid pro quo sexual harassment, in which a person risks losing their job or other negative consequences if they turn down sexual advances; and hostile work environment. The new lawsuit alleges numerous acts that, if proven, would result in liability under New York City sexual harassment law.
Both city and state law in New York City prohibit discrimination in employment on the basis of sex or gender. See N.Y.C. Admin. Code § 8-107(1)(a), N.Y. Exec. L. § 296(1)(a). Two forms of sexual harassment constitute unlawful sex discrimination under these statutes. As mentioned earlier, quid pro quo sexual harassment occurs when a supervisor or manager makes acquiescence to sexual demands a condition of employment. This could involve a situation where a job applicant will only get the job if they have sex with a manager, or where a supervisor gives preferable work assignments to people who meet their sexual demands.
The other type of unlawful sexual harassment, hostile work environment, occurs when pervasive and unwelcome sexual conduct makes it essentially impossible for an individual to perform their job duties. Management must be aware of the offensive conduct, and they have a legal obligation to take reasonable steps to prevent further harassment. If they fail to do so, the employer may be liable under state or city law.
In the recently-filed lawsuit, the plaintiff states that the network hired her in July 2018 to host “a talk show covering politics and entertainment” on its streaming service. Her co-host was “a former professional wrestler” turned news commentator. The two began working together in September 2018. The plaintiff alleges that the co-host had “volatile, and at times disturbing relationships with others, especially with women.” She describes an escalating series of sexual advances, including numerous “inappropriate text messages” and “sexually inappropriate comments to her in person.”
The plaintiff claims that she reported the matter to the network several times, but that it ignored her reports for several months. Eventually, she alleges, the network retaliated against her by giving the co-host his own show while denying her opportunities to advance her career. She filed suit in December 2019, asserting causes of action for sexual harassment and retaliation under city and state law. Because she resides in Virginia and the network is headquartered in New York City, she filed her complaint in a Manhattan federal court.
The employment lawyers at Phillips & Associates advocate for New York City employees, former employees, and job seekers in the media industry, helping them assert their rights in claims for sexual harassment and other unlawful acts under city, state, and federal laws. Please contact us today online or at (212) 248-7431 to schedule a free and confidential consultation to discuss your case.