New York City Affordable Housing Worker Alleges Sexual Harassment, Other Unlawful Acts by Construction Company

A New York City woman has filed a lawsuit alleging a wide range of legal claims against a construction company involved in the city’s affordable housing plan. Brown v. HP Westchester Point Housing, No. 022382/2015, complaint (N.Y. Sup. Ct., Bronx Co., Nov. 19, 2015). The woman’s case first made the news over a year ago, after she reportedly walked off a job site in protest of alleged sexual harassment and other claims. As one of only a few women working in the city’s construction sites, she describes numerous instances of harassment and abuse. She filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), and followed that with a lawsuit in state court. Laws at the federal, state, and city levels prohibit sexual harassment in the workplace, treating it as a type of unlawful sex discrimination.

The EEOC defines “sexual harassment” as “unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors,” and other sexual conduct, both verbal and physical. 29 C.F.R. § 1604.11(a). The conduct must be at a high level of severity, however, before an employee may make a legal complaint. The EEOC generally identifies two types of unlawful sexual harassment:

– “Quid pro quo sexual harassment” involves situations in which submitting to or rejecting the offensive conduct directly affects the employee’s job, such as when a supervisor demands sexual activity as a condition of hiring or makes it clear that favorable treatment depends on such activity.
– A “hostile work environment” claim involves situations in which the offensive behavior is so ongoing or pervasive that it interferes with the employee’s ability to do their job.

Claims for quid pro quo sexual harassment often involve one or more supervisors, or other individuals with the power or authority to affect the employee’s conditions of employment. In this type of claim, the supervisor’s actions could be imputed to the employer, since the supervisor’s authority over the employee is part of their job duties. If a claim involves alleged conduct by co-workers, which is more common in claims for hostile work environment, a claimant must show that management was aware of the situation but failed to take adequate remedial action. Both women and men may bring claims for sexual harassment, but women are often more vulnerable, especially in positions where they have little bargaining power, little pay, and fear of losing their job. Restaurant servers are especially vulnerable, as are construction workers.

The plaintiff in the case described above worked as a welder’s assistant for a New York City construction company. Her employer subcontracted with a major construction company hired by the city for its affordable housing project. She alleged sexual harassment, racial harassment, discrimination on the basis of both sex and race, wage theft, workplace safety violations, and other acts. She described a series of events beginning in March 2014, including sexual remarks, groping, and indecent exposure, which allegedly continued until she quit in October of that year.

The sexual harassment attorneys at Phillips & Associates represent job applicants and current and former employees in the New York City area. We advocate for our clients’ rights in claims for sexual harassment, hostile work environment, and other unlawful employment practices under city, state, and federal laws. Contact us today online or at (212) 248-7431 to schedule a free and confidential consultation with a member of our team.

More Blog Posts:

Former Hospital Employee’s Lawsuit Demonstrates the Short Distance Between Sexual Harassment and Pregnancy Discrimination, New York Employment Attorney Blog, November 24, 2015

New York Utilities Company Settles Joint Federal and State Sexual Harassment Investigation for $3.8 Million, While Some Complainants Continue with Lawsuit, New York Employment Attorney Blog, November 17, 2015

Former Employee of New York Marketing Firm Sues for Harassment, Sexual Orientation Discrimination, New York Employment Attorney Blog, July 29, 2015

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