A jury awarded $18 million in compensatory and punitive damages to a former employee of a Wall Street financial firm in her sexual harassment lawsuit in late June 2015. The plaintiff had alleged that the company’s CEO repeatedly subjected her to unwelcome sexual advances, that he fired her in retaliation for rejecting him, and that he defamed her by posting false information about her on a blog site owned by the company. She filed suit in 2014 against the financial firm, the CEO, and the company that operates the blog. Bouveng v. NYG Capital LLC, et al., No. 1:14-cv-05474, 2nd am. complaint (S.D.N.Y., Oct. 24, 2014).
The plaintiff is a citizen of Sweden who came to the U.S. on a nonimmigrant work visa. She claimed that he began making romantic overtures towards her shortly after meeting her in 2013, but he also offered her a job at his firm. She was employed there from October 2013 until April 2014. The CEO, according to the plaintiff’s complaint, made frequent comments about her appearance, made unwanted physical contact with her, and eventually coerced her into sexual activity on several occasions. Id. at 19-20.
The CEO threatened to fire the plaintiff, revoke her visa, and ruin her professional reputation, she claimed in the lawsuit, if she did not give in to his advances. On April 22, 2014, he fired her after entering her apartment and finding a male friend who had been staying there. The plaintiff alleged that the CEO then began calling her, as well as her family and friends, and making disparaging remarks about her. After she filed the lawsuit, she claimed, he escalated his harassment of her, including by publishing articles about her on a blog site owned by the financial firm. Articles published on the blog described her as a “Swedish party girl” and falsely accused her of abusing drugs and engaging in other illegal activities. Id. at 38.
The plaintiff’s lawsuit asserted causes of action for quid pro quo sexual harassment, hostile work environment, gender discrimination, and retaliation under 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 asserted common-law causes of action for assault, battery, intentional infliction of emotional distress, defamation, and breach of contract. In early June 2015, the court granted the defendants’ motion to dismiss as to the claims for assault, battery, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and breach of contract.
The case went to trial later in June, and on June 29, the jury entered a verdict in the plaintiff’s favor on the counts of quid pro quo sexual harassment and retaliation, under both the NYSHRL and the NYCHRL, and defamation. It awarded compensatory damages in the amounts of $500,000 for her quid pro quo sexual harassment claims, $1.5 million for her defamation claims, and $1 for her retaliation claims. It found that she was entitled to punitive damages for the retaliation and defamation claims. It awarded her $16 million in punitive damages for defamation, apportioned as follows: $10 million against the CEO, $1 million against the firm, and $5 million against the website publisher. It awarded her $1 in punitive damages for retaliation against the CEO.
Phillips & Associates’ sexual harassment attorneys advocate for the rights of New York City employees, former employees, and job applicants in claims for unlawful employment practices like sexual harassment and hostile work environment. Contact us today online or at (212) 248-7431 to schedule a free and confidential consultation to discuss your case with a member of our team.
More Blog Posts:
Wall Street Bank Named in Pregnancy Discrimination Lawsuit in New York State Court, New York Employment Attorney Blog, January 7, 2015
Former Intern Sues New York City Financial Advisor, Firm for Alleged Sexual Harassment, New York Employment Attorney Blog, October 22, 2014
Lawsuits Allege Sexual Harassment, Retaliation Against Wall Street Financial Firm, Executive, New York Employment Attorney Blog, September 3, 2014