The plaintiffs in a New York City sexual harassment lawsuit, which gained prominence in large part because of the #MeToo movement, recently filed affidavits containing additional allegations of harassment by the defendant against themselves and others. The affidavits are a response to a motion to dismiss filed by the defendant, a television host who lost his show after multiple women accused him of sexual harassment in late 2017. The lawsuit, filed in May 2018 in state court in Manhattan, alleges violations of the New York City Human Rights Law (NYCHRL). It names the host and the television network as defendants. The plaintiffs settled with the network in late 2018. The defendant host moved to dismiss the lawsuit in September 2018, claiming that the plaintiffs failed to state “valid causes of action” for their claims of sex discrimination, retaliation, and aiding and abetting.
The NYCHRL prohibits discrimination on the basis of numerous factors, including gender. Court decisions have recognized sexual harassment as gender discrimination in violation of this and similar statutes. Unlawful sexual harassment includes scenarios in which an employer creates or allows a “hostile work environment” consisting of unwelcome and pervasive sexual conduct, ranging from jokes or remarks to overtures or contact. It also includes “quid pro quo” situations in which acceding to demands for some form of sexual activity is a condition of employment. Retaliation for opposing or reporting suspected violations is itself an unlawful employment practice under the NYCHRL.
According to their complaint, the three plaintiffs were “all in their low 20s” when they worked for the defendant host, who was “in his mid-70s.” They began working for the network during a span of time from late 2015 to early 2017, and they allegedly experienced sexual harassment by the host during 2017. They allege that the host had a history of sexual harassment complaints going back at least as far as the 1980s, and that the network knew about this but “failed to take any remedial action for decades.”
Alleged acts of harassment described by the plaintiffs include a statement to two of the plaintiffs that “they were hired because he likes ‘tall women,’ i.e. he was attracted to them,” “boast[ing] of his sexual conquests” to the plaintiffs, and “repeatedly sexually touch[ing]” the plaintiffs. One plaintiff, who is of Asian descent, alleges that the host “referred to [her] as ‘China Doll,’ a fetish term.” They further allege multiple acts of retaliation by the defendants after they complained of the alleged harassment.
The plaintiffs’ complaint asserts two causes of action under the NYCHRL: discrimination and harassment, and retaliation. It states that the network and the host are each liable as employers, and for aiding and abetting the other’s unlawful actions. The host’s motion to dismiss argues that the plaintiffs have failed to “allege a cognizable claim of gender discrimination, harassment, or retaliation.” In response, the plaintiffs each filed affidavits on April 1, 2019, totaling 13 pages in length, which detailed further allegations of “physical and verbal sexual harassment” and retaliation by the host. The defendant’s motion to dismiss is still pending in the court.
The skilled and experienced sexual harassment lawyers at Phillips & Associates advocate for the rights of New York City workers in the media industry and other industries. To schedule a free and confidential consultation to see how we can help you, contact us today online or at (212) 248-7431.