Sexual harassment takes many forms. While the classic example of workplace sexual harassment might involve a male supervisor making sexual demands of a female employee, New York City sexual harassment attorneys know that it can occur between individuals of any gender. The key elements of unlawful sexual harassment are that the conduct is unwelcome, and that it is based on gender in some way. A lawsuit recently filed in a Manhattan federal court presents a scenario that might only seem out of the ordinary to people who mainly know about sexual harassment from its depictions in popular culture. In this case, a former hotel employee, “a black man who identifies his sexual orientation as gay,” is alleging sexual harassment by his female former supervisor and other unlawful acts.
Employment laws in New York City, New York State, and at the federal level prohibit discrimination on the basis of sex or gender. Sexual harassment is considered a form of sex discrimination when the harassing conduct creates a “hostile work environment.” This occurs when unwelcome sexual conduct that is either pervasive or severe creates an atmosphere that a reasonable observer would consider “hostile,” and that renders a person incapable of performing their job duties to the best of their ability. The conduct can range from lewd comments or jokes in the workplace to direct sexual overtures or worse.
The plaintiff in the lawsuit mentioned above states in his complaint that he began working for the defendant hotel in April 2018. His job involved booking and managing reservations for the hotel and its onsite restaurant. He alleges that the sexual harassment by his supervisor began “nearly as soon as [he] began his employment.” He states that he never hid his sexual orientation from his employer or coworkers, but the supervisor allegedly made frequent remarks regarding his sexuality. He claims that this included “mak[ing] lewd comments about the physical attributes of male guests and celebrities and ask[ing] [his] opinion of their physical attributes.
He alleges that the supervisor “escalated her inappropriate behavior” about a month after he began working there. According to the complaint, she instructed him to “purchase double-sided tape…for her because her dress was not staying properly secured.” He alleges that she then “came into [his] workspace and began disrobing.” When she was “entirely naked from the waist up,” she allegedly instructed him to apply the tape to her breasts. He claims that she said “he should have no problem” doing this “because he was ‘into fashion’ and gay.”
At this point in the complaint, the plaintiff claims that she had told him earlier that she was “untouchable” and “‘did not answer’ to anyone in management or human resources.” Because of this, the plaintiff felt that he could not refuse her demands. The plaintiff makes further allegations involving sexual harassment, sexual orientation and race discrimination, and retaliation after he complained to the hotel’s general manager and human resources department. This, he claims, eventually led to his termination in early 2019.
The lawsuit asserts four causes of action:
1. Gender and sexual orientation discrimination under federal law;
2. Sexual orientation discrimination and sexual harassment under state and city law;
3. Race discrimination under all three statutes; and
4. Retaliation under all three statutes.
The employment lawyers at Phillips & Associates represent New York City workers in claims for sexual harassment and other violations of state, federal, and city law. Please contact us online or at (212) 248-7431 today to schedule a free and confidential consultation with a member of our experienced and skilled team.