Two former salespeople at a Manhattan Saks Fifth Avenue store have filed a lawsuit in state court against the perfume company that employed them. They are alleging that another employee sexually harassed them on an ongoing basis, that supervisors did nothing to intervene, and that the company fired one of them after he reported the harassment. Mikel, et al. v. Guerlain, Inc., No. 159425-2014, complaint (N.Y. Sup. Ct., N.Y. Co., Sep. 25, 2014). While the plaintiffs and the alleged harasser all worked at the Saks Fifth Avenue location, they were employed by a different company, which operated a sales counter within the store. The lawsuit asserts claims for sex discrimination, sexual harassment, and retaliation under the New York State Human Rights Law (NYSHRL) and the New York City Human Rights Law (NYCHRL).
One of the two plaintiffs is a man who was hired by the defendant for a part-time sales position at the perfume counter in August 2008. The defendant hired the second plaintiff, a woman, as a freelance sales worker in June 2012, promoting her to full-time the following August. The company hired the alleged harasser as a makeup artist during the summer of 2013. The plaintiffs allege that he began “making inappropriate comments” to the male plaintiff around July 4, 2013, including providing “graphic and unwanted details” about his sexual activities and showing him sexually explicit photos on his phone. Mikel, complaint at 4. He allegedly ignored the male plaintiff’s requests to stop, and later in the day he allegedly groped the man’s buttocks. A manager witnessed this, according to the complaint, but did nothing to intervene.
The alleged harasser also allegedly groped the female plaintiff’s genitals on the same day as the incidents with the male plaintiff. She would later reveal to her fellow plaintiff that the man had groped her breasts in late June in front of the same manager and even invited the manager to do the same. The manager allegedly replied that he could not because he was “her boss” but otherwise took no action. Id. at 5. The plaintiffs’ complaint identifies further instances of alleged harassment, ranging from sexual comments and the display of sexually explicit photos to unwanted touching and groping. They state that they realized that the manager would not intervene and that they could not complain to him about the alleged harasser’s behavior.
A different manager, who had reportedly known the male plaintiff for seven years, approached him on August 1, 2013 to ask if he was okay. He finally requested a meeting with her and other managers, including the one who had allegedly witnessed the various acts of sexual harassment, on August 9. A supervisor, identified in the complaint as the National Director of Fragrance and Beauty, allegedly fired him at that meeting while also suggesting that the female plaintiff would not be a witness for him.
The supervisor allegedly took chocolates to the female plaintiff later that day and asked about her relationship with the male plaintiff. She stated that she found it “inappropriate for a supervisor to denigrate” a co-worker. Id. at 9. She resigned about a month later, stating that she “could no longer endure the abusive and hostile treatment.” Id. The two plaintiffs filed suit in September 2014.
The employment attorneys at Phillips & Associates advocate for workers in the greater New York City area who have been subjected to sexual harassment and other unlawful employment practices. To schedule a free and confidential consultation to see how we can assist you, contact us today online or at (212) 248-7431.
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