While the #MeToo movement has made progress over the past several years in exposing sexual harassment in workplaces throughout the country, much work remains to be done. New York City sexual harassment attorneys know well that certain industries remain, in many ways, a “boys’ club” where female employees are expected to endure, at best, bawdy jokes and other inappropriate conduct. A lawsuit filed in a Manhattan federal courthouse in May 2020 alleges this kind of environment in a financial firm. The plaintiff alleges “relentless, egregious discrimination” on the basis of sex, followed by termination in retaliation for speaking out about it.
Sexual harassment is a type of sex discrimination in certain situations under New York City law, New York State law, and federal law. This includes a “hostile work environment” in which unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature is so severe or pervasive that a reasonable person would find it to be intolerable. Hostile work environments often involve a culture of sexual and/or sexist jokes or comments. A single incident, if severe enough, can support a hostile work environment claim, but most claims allege ongoing patterns of behavior.
The plaintiff states in her complaint that she began working for the defendant, a hedge fund located in New York City, in the summer of 2016 as an investment associate. Almost immediately, she claims, she noticed “a sexually charged and misogynistic work environment.” She describes her desk as being “part of a large table shared by seven people…located in the middle of the trading floor…within clear earshot of every person who sat on the floor.” The company allegedly employed few women during her time there. They all, she claims, had the title of “associate” and reported to male supervisors.
While most of the plaintiff’s factual allegations appear towards the middle of her 37-page complaint, she includes in her “Summary of Claims” a description of a system allegedly used by male traders and portfolio managers to rank women, including female employees and others, known as “F***, Marry, or Kill.” The title makes the system fairly self-explanatory. She claims that male employees regularly discussed how they would categorize women in the office, and further alleges that one trader told her that “some men at [the defendant] thought that [her] ranking should change from ‘marry’ status to ‘kill’ status.”
The defendant had no human resources department, according to the plaintiff, so when she decided to report the offensive conduct of her co-workers and supervisors, she had nowhere to go except to her own supervisors, and then to upper management. She claims that the company’s founder and CEO dismissed the behavior as “locker-room talk.” She further alleges that the CEO and other executives threatened her, and that she was fired without warning soon after she made her complaint. After she filed a discrimination and retaliation complaint with the New York City Commission on Human Rights, she claims that the defendant filed a frivolous lawsuit against her in New York Supreme Court in retaliation.
The complaint asserts ten causes of action. It alleges employment discrimination and retaliation under federal, state, and city law, aiding and abetting unlawful employment practices under state and city law, and equal pay violations under federal and state law. The plaintiff is seeking declaratory, injunctive, and monetary relief.
The knowledgeable and experienced employment attorneys at Phillips & Associates fight for the rights of New York City employees in claims alleging sex discrimination, sexual harassment, and other unlawful practices. To schedule a free and confidential consultation to discuss your case, please contact us today online or at (212) 248-7431.