Lawsuit Alleges Sexual Harassment, Invasion of Privacy in New York City Performing Arts

The performing arts, including music, theater, and dance, are among the most famous features of New York City. Sexual harassment is unfortunately still common for performers and workers, despite recent efforts to bring attention and consequences to those who perpetrate or enable this sort of conduct. Statutes like the New York City Human Rights Law (NYCHRL) view certain types of sexual harassment as unlawful discrimination in employment on the basis of sex. A recent lawsuit filed against the city’s largest ballet company demonstrates that laws like the NYCHRL are not the only tools available to New York City sexual harassment lawyers. A former student at the ballet’s dance school alleges that the ballet company negligently allowed an environment of sexual harassment in Waterbury v. N.Y.C. Ballet, Inc., et al, No. 158220/2018, am. complaint (N.Y. Sup. Ct., N.Y. Cty., Sep. 18, 2018).

Hostile work environment is one type of sexual harassment covered by the NYCHRL and other statutes. It occurs when unwelcome sexual remarks, jokes, or advances impede an individual’s ability to perform their job duties. If acts allegedly constituting a hostile work environment also threaten workplace safety, privacy, or other legal interests, a negligence claim may be possible. Negligence is based on common-law principles. A plaintiff must establish four elements: 1) the defendant owed a duty of care to the plaintiff or the general public; 2) the defendant breached that duty; 3) the breach was the cause-in-fact of the plaintiff’s injuries; and 4) the plaintiff suffered measurable, compensable damage. Businesses have a duty to provide a reasonably safe environment for customers, employees, and others who would ordinarily be expected to be present on their premises. Employers have a duty to provide reasonably safe work environments for their employees.

The plaintiff in Waterbury is a ballet dancer and a former student at the ballet company’s school. She alleges that the company maintains a “fraternity-like atmosphere” that “emboldens [it and its dancers] to disregard the law and violate the basic rights of women.” Waterbury, complaint at 2. She studied at the ballet company’s dance school, and entered into a dating relationship with a male dancer. Her complaint describes a wide range of alleged conduct by dancers and others in the ballet company, and alleges that the company either ignored or enabled the conduct “so long as the institution continued to sell tickets and was profitable.” Id. at 8.

She makes specific allegations that the male dancer, while they were dating, shared intimate photos of her with other male dancers in the company without her permission. The ex-boyfriend resigned from the company in connection with her allegations, and two other dancers were suspended. All three are named individually as defendants.

The lawsuit alleges negligence and negligent hiring, training, and retention against the ballet company and the dance school. It alleges separate causes of action for negligence against each of the three individual defendants. It also alleges violations of N.Y.C. Admin. Code § 10-177, unlawful disclosure of an intimate image, by the ballet company and the ex-boyfriend. Common-law claims against the ex-boyfriend and the ballet company include assault, battery, and negligent and intentional infliction of emotional distress.

The experienced and knowledgeable employment attorneys at Phillips & Associates represent New York City employees, former employees, and job seekers in claims for sexual harassment. Please contact us today online or at (212) 248-7431 to schedule a free and confidential consultation to see how we can help you.

More Blog Posts:

New York City Theater Workers Speak Out About Sexual Harassment and Assault, New York Employment Attorney Blog, December 11, 2018

It’s Holiday Party Time in New York City, So Let’s Talk About Sexual Harassment, New York Employment Attorney Blog, November 27, 2018

Sexual Harassment Affects Male Models in New York City’s Fashion Industry, New York Employment Attorney Blog, October 25, 2018

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