Lawsuit Alleges Sexual Harassment by Assistant Principal at New York City School

Local, state, and federal employment statutes protect New York City workers from discrimination and harassment. Laws like Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the New York City Human Rights Law (NYCHRL) view sexual harassment as a form of sex discrimination, and allow aggrieved individuals to file suit for damages. A lawsuit filed last year in federal court alleges a sequence of events that is familiar to New York City sexual harassment attorneys. The plaintiff claims that a supervisor subjected her to unwanted sexual remarks and advances, and that school administrators retaliated against her for reporting the harassment. Thomas v. N.Y.C. Dept. of Educ., et al, No. 1:18-cv-04459, complaint (E.D.N.Y., Aug. 7, 2018).

Title VII, the NYCHRL, and the New York State Human Rights Law (NYSHRL) prohibit discrimination in employment on the basis of sex, among other factors. See 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-2(a), N.Y. Exec. L. § 296(1)(a), N.Y.C. Admin. Code § 8-107(a). Various court decisions have identified sexual harassment as a form of sex discrimination under these statutes. One situation involves a hostile work environment in which “a man or woman [must] run a gauntlet of sexual abuse in return for the privilege of being allowed to work and make a living.” Meritor Savings Bank v. Vinson, 477 U.S. 57, 66-67 (1986), quoting Henson v. Dundee, 682 F.2d 897, 902 (11th Cir. 1982).

The plaintiff in Thomas states in her complaint that she began working for the New York City public school system as a teacher in 1988, and received tenure in 1996. She began working at a magnet school in Queens in 1998, where she “transitioned into a role as a Guidance Counselor.” Thomas, complaint at 4. The plaintiff identifies several individuals who served as principal of the school during her time there. She alleges that, until recently, she regularly received “positive and satisfactory formal and informal observations” from her supervisors. Id.

In 2013, according to the plaintiff, a new assistant principal began working at the school, followed by a new principal in 2016. These two administrators are named individually as defendants in the lawsuit, along with the city’s Department of Education. The plaintiff alleges that this assistant principal “would regularly make [her] stand closer to him,” and that he would then “touch her or brush up against [her]…body parts.” Id. at 5. She also claims that he “would call her to his office on a regular basis” on pretextual grounds in order “to engage in his unwelcome touching and sexually predatory behavior.” Id.

The plaintiff states that she did not report this alleged conduct “out of fear for her job.” Id. at 6. She eventually made a formal report in January 2016, but she alleges that school and department officials “were immediately dismissive of her complaint.” Id. at 7. The plaintiff claims that she was terminated, based on false premises, in retaliation for her complaints in 2017. Her lawsuit asserts causes of action for sex discrimination and retaliation under Title VII, the NYSHRL, and the NYCHRL.

Phillips & Associates’ team of experienced and skilled employment attorneys represents New York City employees, former employees, and job seekers. We advocate for our clients in claims for unlawful workplace practices like sexual harassment and sex discrimination. To schedule a free and confidential consultation to see how we can help you, please contact us today online or at (212) 248-7431.

More Blog Posts:

Increased Attention to Workplace Sexual Harassment Leads Some New York City Employers to Contemplate Other Forms of Sex Discrimination, New York Employment Law Firm Blog, January 15, 2019

Sexual Harassment Scandals in Theater Community Prompt Organizational Changes, New York Employment Law Firm Blog, December 26, 2018

Lawsuit Alleges Sexual Harassment, Invasion of Privacy in New York City Performing Arts, New York Employment Law Firm Blog, December 17, 2018

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