Articles Posted in Retaliation

A six-figure sexual harassment and discrimination settlement made national news recently. That’s because one of the alleged wrongdoers wasn’t just any employer – it was one of New York’s best-known celebrity chefs. The case and the settlement serve as a clear reminder that, whether you’re serving sliders at a chain “neighborhood grill” or delivering delicacies at a Michelin-rated establishment, you can find yourself as the target of sexual harassment and discrimination, so you need to know what to do when it happens. That starts with reaching out to a knowledgeable New York sexual harassment and discrimination lawyer to learn more about the legal options available to you.

The agreement ended an investigation by the New York Attorney General’s Office into the restaurants of celebrity chef Mario Batali and his business partner.

According to numerous current and former restaurant workers, Batali engaged in several acts of sexual harassment. Allegedly, the chef, his partner, and their company “fostered a sexualized culture of misconduct and harassment at their restaurants in New York City.”

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For decades, if not longer, Wall Street has had a reputation as a place dominated by men, where women must tolerate embarrassing or degrading treatment in order to succeed in their careers. When the #MeToo movement began several years ago, there were doubts about whether it would be able to affect Wall Street, particularly those firms whose cultures draw comparisons to unsupervised college fraternities. The tenacity of New York City sexual harassment attorneys has brought some relief to Wall Street employees of all genders who have experienced hostile work environments. One of the first prominent sexual harassment lawsuits on Wall Street in the past few years resulted, unfortunately, in the dismissal of several of the plaintiff’s claims. The plaintiff has filed an appeal challenging the dismissal in state appellate court.

Under the New York City Human Rights Law (NYCHRL), sexual harassment constitutes discrimination on the basis of gender when a supervisor, manager, or other person in a position of authority makes sexual activity a condition of employment. This is known as quid pro quo sexual harassment. The “sexual activity” could involve anything from exchanging lurid emails or text messages to actual sexual contact. A key element of this type of claim is that the employee or job applicant believes that they are not in a position to decline the advances, out of concern for their job.

The plaintiff in the lawsuit mentioned above worked for a Wall Street hedge fund as a managing director and portfolio manager. She alleged in her complaint that her direct supervisor “repeatedly coerced her into sex,” with an implied threat to withhold resources that she needed for her job if she declined his advances. Most of these advances, the plaintiff claimed, occurred at “breakfast meetings” arranged by the supervisor “where his attire usually consisted of his white terry bathrobe.”
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While sexual harassment can and does occur in every kind of workplace in the country, certain industries have developed a reputation for harassment based on employees’ gender. Most New York City sexual harassment attorneys have probably represented individuals who experienced sexual harassment in the financial sector. Wall Street is often described as a “boys’ club,” and a lawsuit filed in late 2020 uses that exact term to describe the defendant employer’s work environment. The plaintiff alleges inappropriate behavior of a sexual nature in the workplace, as well as harassment that, while not overtly sexual, targeted her on the basis of her gender. She further claims that the defendant fired her in retaliation for opposing the alleged harassment. The lawsuit asserts claims for gender discrimination and retaliation in violation of city and state law.

Sexual harassment is a form of gender discrimination under city, state, and federal law. This includes unwelcome conduct based on sex that is so severe or pervasive that it creates a hostile work environment. This could be explicitly sexual behavior, such as an office culture that allows bawdy jokes and other inappropriate banter. It could involve more invasive harassment, such as sexual overtures, unwanted physical contact, or worse. It can also consist of hostility that is not inherently prurient, such as negative remarks about women’s ability to do certain jobs. All of these examples could occur anywhere, but they can be especially pronounced in workplaces that have traditionally been dominated by men.

The plaintiff began working for an investment bank in Manhattan in 2019, shortly after graduating from college. She states that she met the firm’s then-managing director during her senior year, and claims that he essentially recruited her to come work for him and offered to be her mentor. She alleges that he described the job as “a new business development role,” but that it “morphed into an administrative position” with relatively low pay. She further alleges that, shortly after she started working for the defendant, she “observed two high-level women…discriminated against and pushed out of the firm.”
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Employment discrimination on the basis of sex, including sexual harassment, violates nearly every employment statute in the country. It persists in workplaces for a vast array of reasons. New York City sexual harassment attorneys often see examples that result from people’s inability — or refusal — to separate someone’s public persona from their inherent dignity as a person. People who work in the entertainment industry regularly experience this. Late last year, an emergency medical technician (EMT) with the New York City Fire Department (FDNY) settled a lawsuit against the city that involved allegations of sexual harassment based, in part, on her prior career in reality television. The city agreed to pay $350,000 to settle the suit.

Sexual harassment is considered unlawful sex discrimination under the New York City Human Rights Law (NYCHRL) and other statutes. An employer violates city law when it allows unwelcome sexual conduct in the workplace to become so severe or pervasive that it creates a hostile work environment. This usually involves ongoing patterns of behavior, but a single incident can support a hostile work environment claim if it is severe enough. In either case, the behavior must create enough of a disruption to the workplace that an objective observer would consider it unreasonably hostile. A situation where the claimant is a specific target is probably more likely to succeed as a hostile work environment claim, but targeting is not necessarily required.

The case against the FDNY involved allegedly targeted behavior. The plaintiff was a cast member on a reality television program, which was known for depicting people in a “party” lifestyle, in 2009 and 2010. She has made additional appearances in various shows since then. According to her complaint, she “decided to pursue her dream” of becoming an EMT in 2014, and began working for the FDNY as an EMT on Staten Island in 2016. She suffered an on-the-job injury in 2016 that kept her from working for almost a year. Another injury on the job in 2017 resulted in a restriction to “light duty” when she returned to work. This is when the alleged harassment began.
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New York City pregnancy discrimination laws offer some of the most extensive protections to workers in the whole country. Federal law classifies discrimination on the basis of pregnancy as a form of sex discrimination. State and city law goes further, requiring employers to make reasonable accommodations for pregnant employees and employees with newborn children. The New York City Human Rights Law (NYCHRL) goes further still, requiring employers to provide private, sterile lactation rooms where workers can express breast milk, along with facilities for storing milk while at work. A class action filed in a Brooklyn federal court alleges that the police department failed to provide lactation facilities for employees as required by law. The lawsuit was filed more than a year ago and is in the process of seeking class certification.

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 includes discrimination on the basis of pregnancy, childbirth, and related medical conditions in its definition of sex discrimination. The New York State Human Rights Law (NYSHRL) prohibits discrimination on the basis of familial status, which includes pregnancy, childbirth, and parenthood. It also states that an employer commits an unlawful discriminatory practice when they fail to provide reasonable accommodations for an employee’s pregnancy-related conditions.

A law passed by the New York City Council several years ago added provisions to the NYCHRL regarding accommodations for new parents who are nursing. Employers must provide a “lactation room,” defined as “a sanitary place, other than a restroom,” that is “shielded from view and free from intrusion.” N.Y.C. Admin. Code § 8-102. The room must include a power outlet, a place to sit, and a surface to place a pump and other items. It must be located near a sink or water fountain, and “in reasonable proximity to [an] employee’s work area.” Id. at § 8-107(22)(b)(i).

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Restaurants are regularly the site of unlawful sexual harassment all over the country and the world. New York City sexual harassment attorneys have seen countless scenarios in which managers and supervisors abuse their authority, or fail to rein in the offensive behavior of employees or customers. A lawsuit filed in September 2020 in a Manhattan state court alleges that a restaurant manager routinely harassed the plaintiff, who worked as a barista. This behavior persisted for two years, she claims, until the restaurant fired her, allegedly in retaliation for complaining. The complaint names the restaurant, its owner, and the manager as defendants.

Laws at the federal, state, and city level in New York City prohibit workplace discrimination on the basis of sex. This includes sexual harassment in situations where:
– Agreeing to sexual demands is a condition of employment, known as quid pro quo sexual harassment; and
– Unwelcome sexual remarks or behavior in the workplace are severe or pervasive enough that a reasonable person would find it offensive, known as a hostile work environment.

When someone in an executive or managerial position is the alleged harasser, the employer may be vicariously liable for their actions. Otherwise, the employer must have known, or been in a position where they should have known, about the offensive conduct, and they must have failed to make reasonable efforts to resolve the situation.

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Sexual harassment in New York City’s film and television industry has received a great deal of attention in the past few years. That conversation has allowed people from nearly every walk of life to come forward about their own unfortunate experiences. Several recent news reports suggest that the sports world is having its own reckoning. New York City sexual harassment attorneys had a landmark victory about thirteen years ago, in a case involving the city’s professional basketball team. In 2020, allegations have come to light involving a player for the city’s Major League Soccer (MLS) team. Around the country, lawsuits and other claims have arisen in connection with both college and professional football.

Laws that prohibit discrimination on the basis of sex cover sexual harassment in certain situations, such as when unwelcome sexual conduct creates a situation that a reasonable person would find to be a hostile work environment. At the federal level, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 protects employees against such behavior, but not everyone working in sports, or many other sectors of the entertainment industry, is an “employee” in a legal sense. Both the New York City Human Rights Law and the New York State Human Rights Law expressly extend their protections to interns. See N.Y. Exec. L. § 296-c, N.Y.C. Admin. Code § 8-107(23).

During the summer of 2020, New York City’s professional soccer team announced that it was opening an investigation into allegations of sexual harassment by a former player. The allegations came from a former intern for the team, who posted them to the social media platform Twitter. She reportedly described how she thought the internship was “the opportunity of a life time” at first, but then alleged that it turned into the player “touching me every f—ing day and my bosses thinking it was great comedic material.” The player issued a statement denying the allegations. It does not appear that the former intern has pursued formal legal action yet.

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Sexual harassment occurs whenever someone abuses their authority in the workplace to try to coerce someone into some kind of sexual activity, or whenever one or more people subject someone to an unwelcome and hostile work environment based on sex. New York City sexual harassment attorneys routinely bring lawsuits on behalf of workers who have experienced these types of misconduct. The New York Attorney General (AG) is also taking a role in fighting against workplace sexual harassment under state, federal, and city law. The AG’s office announced this summer that it had concluded an investigation into allegations of sexual harassment and retaliation at a Long Island construction company. It also stated that it had reached a settlement agreement with the company, in which the company will pay $1.5 million in damages.

A legal claim for sexual harassment can arise from specific acts or patterns of conduct by individual employees, as well as from systemic failures by an employer that allow sexual harassment to persist in a workplace. Claims alleging a hostile work environment often require proof not only that an employee faced unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature that was either pervasive or severe, but also that the employer knew or should have known about the problematic behavior and failed to take reasonable actions to address it.

Since October 2018, state law has required employers to provide sexual harassment prevention training for all of their employees. Employers may use a model training program developed by the state, or they can use their own as long as it meets certain minimum standards.

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Sexual harassment takes many forms. While the classic example of workplace sexual harassment might involve a male supervisor making sexual demands of a female employee, New York City sexual harassment attorneys know that it can occur between individuals of any gender. The key elements of unlawful sexual harassment are that the conduct is unwelcome, and that it is based on gender in some way. A lawsuit recently filed in a Manhattan federal court presents a scenario that might only seem out of the ordinary to people who mainly know about sexual harassment from its depictions in popular culture. In this case, a former hotel employee, “a black man who identifies his sexual orientation as gay,” is alleging sexual harassment by his female former supervisor and other unlawful acts.

Employment laws in New York City, New York State, and at the federal level prohibit discrimination on the basis of sex or gender. Sexual harassment is considered a form of sex discrimination when the harassing conduct creates a “hostile work environment.” This occurs when unwelcome sexual conduct that is either pervasive or severe creates an atmosphere that a reasonable observer would consider “hostile,” and that renders a person incapable of performing their job duties to the best of their ability. The conduct can range from lewd comments or jokes in the workplace to direct sexual overtures or worse.

The plaintiff in the lawsuit mentioned above states in his complaint that he began working for the defendant hotel in April 2018. His job involved booking and managing reservations for the hotel and its onsite restaurant. He alleges that the sexual harassment by his supervisor began “nearly as soon as [he] began his employment.” He states that he never hid his sexual orientation from his employer or coworkers, but the supervisor allegedly made frequent remarks regarding his sexuality. He claims that this included “mak[ing] lewd comments about the physical attributes of male guests and celebrities and ask[ing] [his] opinion of their physical attributes.

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Under laws enacted in 2018 in both New York State and New York City, sexual harassment training must be provided on an annual basis. New York City’s law only applies to employers with fifteen or more employees, but the state law covers all employers, including those in the city. This requirement remains in effect, including for employers whose workforces have shifted to remote working. New York City sexual harassment lawyers see claims arising from every conceivable type of workplace, from offices to warehouses to purely virtual spaces. Just because an employee does not have to report to a workplace in person does not mean that they cannot experience unwanted sexual advances or remarks, or other hostile conduct.

The New York State law, found at § 201-g of the New York Labor Law, requires employers to implement sexual harassment prevention policies and to conduct annual sexual harassment training for employees. The state prepared a model policy and training program in 2018. The law requires employers to adopt those, or one that meets or exceeds the minimum standards set by the model policy and training program.

The law requires the state’s model sexual harassment training to be “interactive” and to include four specific points:
1. An “explanation of sexual harassment” that follows guidelines set by the New York State Division of Human Rights (DHR);
2. Examples of behavior constituting sexual harassment;
3. Information on state and federal laws that address sexual harassment, along with the remedies available to people who have experienced sexual harassment; and
4. Information on internal procedures for reporting, investigating, and adjudicating complaints.

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