New York Investment Bank Faces Multiple Lawsuits Alleging Sexual Harassment and Retaliation

A major Manhattan investment bank is facing three separate lawsuits alleging sexual harassment and retaliation in connection with reporting the harassment. Two of the plaintiffs do not claim to have personally experienced any sexual harassment, but they claim that the company retaliated against them for reporting sexual harassment against a female co-worker. Picarella v. HSBC (USA) Securities, No. 1:14-cv-04463, am. complaint (S.D.N.Y., Aug. 27, 2014); Rist v. HSBC (USA) Securities, No. 1:14-cv-06503, complaint (S.D.N.Y., Aug. 14, 2014). The plaintiff in the third lawsuit claims that a colleague sexually harassed him and that the bank retaliated against him when he reported it to his superiors. Preston v. HSBC (USA) Securities, No. 1:14-cv-08402, complaint (S.D.N.Y., Oct. 21, 2014). All of the lawsuits assert causes of action under federal, state, and city employment statutes.

The first two lawsuits arise from the alleged harassment of a female co-worker, identified only as Jane Doe. One of the plaintiffs was in a dating relationship with Doe during early 2012, when the alleged harassment occurred. Both plaintiffs claim that they complained to a senior vice president (VP), who was one of the alleged harassers. The VP allegedly made “sexually explicit and intimidating remarks” and “encouraged [Doe] to dress provocatively.” Picarella, am. complaint at 4. She also allegedly pressured Doe to engage in sexual activity with male executives and clients. She terminated Doe’s employment on May 31, 2012. The plaintiffs claim this was “to prevent [Doe] from implicating” her and other executives “in the sexual harassment Doe had suffered.” Rist, complaint at 4.

The retaliation began almost as soon as the plaintiffs reported their concerns, they claim. According to one plaintiff, the company’s “internal investigation became a tool of retaliation rather than protection” for the plaintiff and Doe. Picarella, am. complaint at 7. Both plaintiffs, who are 47 and 50 years old and have extensive experience in the finance industry, were demoted, stripped of job responsibilities, and placed under the supervision of people considerably junior to them. The plaintiff who had dated Doe found the work environment “so intolerable that he was compelled to resign” in May 2014. Rist, complaint at 5. The other plaintiff continues to work for the company.

The plaintiff in Preston began working in the bank’s due diligence department as a temporary employee in September 2013, and he was offered a permanent position the following January. In May, the plaintiff’s desk was relocated next to a colleague who had previously expressed his wish “to pursue a sexual relationship with” the plaintiff. Preston, complaint at 4. This colleague allegedly soon began “a campaign of severe and pervasive verbal and physical sexual harassment.” Id. at 5.

The plaintiff’s supervisor allegedly took no action to address the plaintiff’s concerns and even minimized them by describing the colleague as “a ‘fun’ and ‘jokey’ guy.” Id. at 6. The plaintiff complained to higher-level supervisors, including one who allegedly told him to give in to the colleague’s advances to make him go away. When the plaintiff pushed the colleague’s hands away during an incident of unwanted touching, the company suspended him and did not allow him to provide a statement. He was fired in August on what he claims were pretextual grounds.

The sexual harassment attorneys at Phillips & Associates represent workers and job seekers at the municipal, state, and federal levels in the greater New York City area. Contact us today online or at (212) 248-7431 to schedule a free and confidential consultation with a member of our team.

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