The son of a Brooklyn day care center’s owner sexually harassed a now-former teacher for over a year, according to a lawsuit filed in federal court. Manswell v. Heavenly Miracle Academy Services, Inc. et al., No. 1:14-cv-07114, complaint (E.D.N.Y., Dec. 5, 2014). Although the suit has been pending for more than a year, it recently came back to the media’s attention because of an unrelated criminal investigation involving the day care center. The lawsuit asserts causes of action for sex discrimination—which includes sexual harassment—and retaliation under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq.; the New York State Human Rights Law (NYSHRL), N.Y. Exec. L. § 290 et seq.; and the New York City Human Rights Law (NYCHRL), N.Y.C. Admin. Code § 8-101 et seq. It also alleges wage violations and retaliation under state law, N.Y. Lab. L. § 215, and a common law claim for defamation.
Employment statutes at the federal, state, and city levels in New York City prohibit discrimination on the basis of sex and other categories. Courts have long held that sexual harassment constitutes unlawful sex discrimination, particularly when a supervisor conditions hiring or other features of employment on sexual activity, or when the harassment is of such a degree that it creates a hostile work environment. An employer can be held liable for sexual harassment perpetrated by a co-worker who is not in a position of authority over the complainant when it had knowledge of the harassment but failed to act.
The plaintiff in Manswell began working at the defendant day care center in February 2013. She alleges that the owner’s son, also named as a defendant, began subjecting her to sexual harassment almost immediately. The harassment allegedly included “leering” at the plaintiff, “standing uncomfortably close to her[,] and making inappropriate comments about her appearance and clothing.” Manswell, complaint at 3. It later escalated, she claims, to “repeatedly ask[ing the plaintiff] out on dates, insisting that she leave her husband[,] and urging her to have sexual relations with him.” Id. The plaintiff also alleges that he stated that she would get a raise “if she had sex with him.” Id.
Repeated rejections of these advances did not improve the situation, nor did complaints to the plaintiff’s immediate supervisor, according to the lawsuit. The plaintiff reported the matter to the day care center owner, but she alleges that the owner passed this information on to her son instead of remedying the situation. After this, the plaintiff claims, the owner, her son, and other employees retaliated against her. The plaintiff was accused of hitting a student in August 2014. The student reportedly would not corroborate the accusation, and the plaintiff maintains that it is false.
The owner terminated her that September and allegedly told the parents of several students and at least one day care center about the accusation. Her lawsuit alleges sexual harassment and retaliation under federal, state, and city law; unlawful withholding of wages; and defamation per se because of the allegedly “slanderous statements” about her. Id. at 10.
Current, former, and prospective employees in New York City can count on the sexual harassment attorneys at Phillips & Associates to be a champion for their rights. We represent clients in claims for sexual harassment and other unlawful employment practices under federal, state, and city laws. Contact us online or at (212) 248-7431 today to schedule a free and confidential consultation with a member of our team.
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