The State of New York paid more than $5 million to settle around fifteen sexual harassment claims since 2007, according to documents released by the state government. While this is not an unusual amount for a state with New York’s population, it is interesting to note that a large number of the settlements occurred in cases brought by employees of the New York State Department of Correctional Services (NYSDOCS) for alleged sexual harassment by supervisors or co-workers in the prison system. Several inmates also brought sexual harassment claims against prison guards.
A scandal involving a confidential settlement paid by a state assemblyman to two women claiming sexual harassment was reportedly the reason for the release of the settlement records. The case brought additional scrutiny to how the state handles sexual harassment allegations. The released records cover the years from 2007 to 2010 when Governor Andrew Cuomo was the state’s attorney general. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act prohibits sexual harassment in employment, treating it as a form of gender discrimination. New York law at the state and city level contain similar prohibitions. Federal law also contains protections against federal employees who act to restrict a person’s civil rights.
Several cases involve NYSDOCS employees claiming sexual harassment by other employees, usually someone in a supervisory position. In one case, Borrello v. NYSDOCS, et al, a woman employed as a cook at a prison facility alleged that a supervisor sexually harassed her and made physical threats against her. She also alleged that he treated male employees at the prison more favorably. The state settled with the plaintiff nine years after the case was filed, with an agreement that she would resign her position at the prison, and the state would pay $140,000 in back pay, $534,000 in damages, attorney’s fees, and costs.
Two lawsuits filed in March 2008 asserted causes of action for alleged sexual harassment by the same supervisor, Michael Cobb. Both suits settled in October 2010. The parties in Myers v. New York, et al filed a stipulation on October 4, 2010 in which the state agreed to pay the plaintiff $333,333.00 in full settlement of her claims. In Teeter v. New York, the parties filed a stipulation on October 19 showing the state’s agreement to pay the plaintiff $666,666.67 in settlement. According to the New York Times, Cobb personally paid $1,000 in settlement as well.
At least two cases settled by the state in recent years involved prison inmates accusing guards of sexual harassment. A male inmate accused a guard of sexually assaulting him during a patdown in Lewis v. Fisher. That case settled in June 2010 for $300,000. In Kellogg v. NYSDOCS, a female inmate alleged that guards “tormented” her after she refused sexual advances from them. The state settled with her for $75,000 in February 2011.
The lawyers at Phillips & Associates represent victims of workplace sexual harassment and discrimination in New York City and surrounding areas, fighting to protect their rights at the municipal, state, and federal levels. To schedule a free and confidential consultation, contact us today online or at (212) 248-7431.
Stipulation of Settlement, General Release, and Order of Dismissal, Case No. 1:00-cv-00177, Borrello v. New York State Department of Correctional Services, et al, U.S. District Court, Western District of New York, January 16, 2009
Stipulation of Settlement, Case No. 6:08-cv-06141, Myers v. State of New York, et al, U.S. District Court, Western District of New York, October 4, 2010
Stipulation of Settlement, Case No. 6:08-cv-06142, Teeter v. State of New York, et al, U.S. District Court, Western District of New York, October 19, 2010
Stipulation of Settlement and Order of Dismissal, Case No. 1:08-cv-03027, Lewis v. Fischer, et al, U.S. District Court, Eastern District of New York, June 15, 2010
Stipulation of Settlement and Order of Dismissal, Case No. 1:07-cv-02804, Kellogg v. New York State Department of Correctional Services, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York, February 15, 2011
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NYPD Officer Files $30M Lawsuit Accusing Supervisor of Sexual Harassment, New York Employment Attorney Blog, September 20, 2012