New York City employment discrimination laws protect workers from adverse actions based on factors like sex, race, religion, sexual orientation, or gender identity or expression. Under federal, state, and city law, sexual harassment is viewed as a type of discrimination on the basis of sex or gender. Laws like Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 allow individuals to file suit against employers who have discriminated against them, or who have failed to take reasonable action to prevent a co-worker from discriminating against or harassing them. In April, a former officer with the New York City Police Department filed a federal lawsuit alleging sexual harassment under Title VII and several other statutes. The lawsuit names the city and five NYPD officers as defendants.
“Hostile work environment” is one type of sexual harassment recognized as unlawful sex discrimination. In order to prevail on a claim, a plaintiff must show that one or more people in the workplace engaged in unwelcome conduct that was either severe or pervasive enough to interfere with their ability to perform their job duties. Typically, they must show that a reasonable person would consider the conduct to be abusive, intimidating, or hostile beyond mere annoyance. Most hostile work environment claims involve ongoing behavior, but a single incident can support a hostile work environment claim, if it is especially severe.
The plaintiff in the lawsuit mentioned above alleges that a lieutenant, who is named as a defendant, “handpicked her” in February 2017 to work as his “Operator.” This job primarily involved driving him on patrol. She states that she felt he gave her “too much attention,” but did not complain out of fear of retaliation. While in the police vehicle, she claims that the lieutenant routinely made sexually suggestive remarks to her and asked her intrusive personal questions. This also allegedly occurred in the presence of other officers, but no one intervened.
The lieutenant allegedly retaliated against the plaintiff “for continually refusing [his] sexually offensive conduct” by assigning her to arrest and transport a “violent Emotionally Disturbed Person.” This is a term used by the NYPD to describe someone who is “conducting himself in a manner…likely to result in serious injury.” The plaintiff eventually used the NYPD’s internal complaint process, but she claims that it was “less than helpful.” The lieutenant found out about the complaint, leading to further retaliation. He was demoted to sergeant after the department substantiated part of the complaint.
The lawsuit asserts a total of seventeen causes of action under the New York City Human Rights Law (NYCHRL), the New York State Human Rights Law (NYSHRL), Title VII, and the Civil Rights Act of 1871, which is more commonly known as § 1983. It alleges gender discrimination, hostile work environment, and retaliation under each of those four statutes.
The remaining five causes of action are based on § 1983: negligent hiring, failure to train, failure to supervise, failure to discipline, and a Monell claim. The last claim is based on a Supreme Court decision allowing a § 1983 suit against a local government for an official “policy statement, ordinance, regulation, or decision” that allegedly violated a plaintiff’s civil rights. Monell v. Department of Social Services, 436 U.S. 658, 690 (1978).
If you have experienced sexual harassment or a hostile work environment in New York City, the employment lawyers at Phillips & Associates are available to answer your questions and address your concerns. Please contact us today online or at (212) 248-7431 to schedule a free and confidential consultation with a member of our team of knowledgeable and skilled advocates.