Sexual harassment occurs in all kinds of workplaces all over the country and the world. Most antidiscrimination laws treat it as a form of sex discrimination when a supervisor harasses an employee, or when it occurs among coworkers and the employer fails to intervene. New York City sexual harassment attorneys can bring claims under several different employment statutes. Sex discrimination is not, however, the only type of cause of action that a person who has experienced sexual harassment can bring. A lawsuit filed in May 2020 in a Manhattan federal court demonstrates additional causes of action that may arise from sexual harassment. The case does not involve an employment relationship, but the claims in the lawsuit could apply in that kind of case. The plaintiff asserts negligence and several intentional torts, as well as a claim under New York City’s Gender-Motivated Violence Act (GMVA).
Under laws like the New York City Human Rights Law, sexual harassment constitutes employment discrimination on the basis of sex in two scenarios: (1) when a person must acquiesce to some sort of sexual demand as a condition of employment, or (2) when unwelcome sexual conduct or dialogue in the workplace is sufficiently pervasive or severe to create a hostile work environment. A key factor in most sexual harassment cases is an imbalance of power between the harasser(s) and the person(s) experiencing harassment.
The relationship between the plaintiff and the defendant in the lawsuit mentioned above featured a significant imbalance of power. The defendant is a male physician whom the plaintiff “greatly admired professionally.” The plaintiff is a woman who is fifty-two years younger than the defendant. According to her complaint, the plaintiff first sought treatment from the defendant in 2009, when she was nineteen years old. She alleges that “he developed an almost immediate infatuation with her and began pursuing her romantically.” She states that she “maintained a correspondence” with him over the years because of her professional admiration, but that she also “made it very clear that she was not interested in a romantic or intimate relationship.”
The plaintiff states that she “began experiencing severe and painful symptoms” in 2018, and reached out to the defendant for a referral. He sent her to a doctor who diagnosed her with endometriosis. Because she “did not have the financial means to secure proper treatment,” she reached out to the defendant again. He helped arrange surgery for her, but allegedly also “again began peppering her with constant entreaties to enter into an intimate relationship with him.” She states that she “endured” his advances because she needed his help, but continued to “remind him that she had no similar interest in him.”
The events leading to the intentional tort claims occurred on two occasions shortly before the scheduled surgery, when the defendant allegedly insisted that she undergo a physical exam at his office. These visits, she claims, involved “medically unnecessary, unwarranted, and/or non-indicated rectal and breast exams for no medically viable purpose.”
The lawsuit asserts six causes of action. Three are for the intentional torts of battery, assault, and sexual assault. Two are for general negligence and negligent infliction of emotional distress. Finally, she asserts a cause of action under the GMVA, claiming that the defendant’s actions constitute the offense of forcible touching under state law.
The employment lawyers at Phillips & Associates represent workers in New York City in claims for sexual harassment and other abuses of power. To schedule a free and confidential consultation to see how we can assist you, please contact us today online or at (212) 248-7431.