Sexual harassment in the workplace has a far-reaching impact. Conduct ranging from inappropriate jokes or comments to unwanted sexual advances to nonconsensual touching or worse clearly has a severe impact on the people who are the targets of such behavior. Co-workers who stand up for sexual harassment victims may also suffer, however, facing unlawful retaliation or even becoming targets of harassment themselves. Laws like Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the New York State Human Rights Law (NYSHRL), and the New York City Human Rights Law (NYCHRL) prohibit retaliation against workers who report suspected unlawful conduct, even if they are not the actual victims of the alleged conduct. A recent sexual harassment lawsuit in New York City resulted in a substantial judgment for the plaintiff. The underlying situation in that suit led to another lawsuit by a co-worker, who alleged retaliation for reporting the alleged sexual harassment.
The lawsuit, brought by a former intern at a Wall Street financial firm against the firm and its CEO, Bouveng v. NYG Capital LLC, et al., No. 1:14-cv-05474 (S.D.N.Y., Jul. 21, 2014), made the news in the summer of 2015. A jury ruled in the former intern’s favor on claims for quid pro quo sexual harassment and retaliation under the NYSHRL and the NYCHRL, as well as defamation. The damages award totaled $18 million: $2 million in compensatory damages and $16 million in punitive damages.
Shortly after the Bouveng lawsuit was filed, another former employee of the defendant filed suit in state court for retaliation under the NYSHRL and the NYCHRL. Weiss v. NYG Capital LLC, et al. (“Weiss I”), No. 157381/2014, verif. complaint (N.Y. Sup. Ct., N.Y. Co., Jul. 29, 2014). The plaintiff, who worked as a graphic designer for the defendant, alleged that he attended “weekly strategy meetings” with Bouveng, the CEO, and other employees. Id. at 3. He claimed that he witnessed ongoing “unsolicited sexual propositions and sexual commands, unwanted touching, and stalking.” Id. at 4. He alleged that the defendant fired him in retaliation for reporting his observations.
In November 2014, the plaintiff received a right-to-sue letter from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), giving him the right to file a Title VII claim. He commenced a federal lawsuit the same month and voluntarily dismissed the state lawsuit. Weiss v. NYG Capital LLC, et al. (“Weiss II”), No. 1:14-cv-08743, 1st am. complaint (S.D.N.Y., Dec. 8, 2014). The defendants objected to the dismissal of the state-court lawsuit and filed a modified version of the motion to dismiss from that case in the federal lawsuit.
The defendant filed a voluntary dismissal, with prejudice, of his Title VII claim in the federal case in August 2015. “With prejudice” means that he cannot re-file the same claim again. Without a Title VII claim, the court no longer had subject matter jurisdiction over the case, so the plaintiff requested dismissal of the NYSHRL and NYCHRL claims without prejudice. The court granted the plaintiff’s request, noting that the defendants did not object to dismissal on the condition that they reserved the right “to seek relief from any future forum…regarding Plaintiff’s forum hopping and forum shopping.” Weiss II, order at 2 (Sep. 8, 2015). The plaintiff may be able to re-file in state court.
If you have a claim for an alleged employment law violation in New York City, such as sexual harassment or retaliation, the knowledgeable and experienced sexual harassment attorneys at Phillips & Associates can help you assert your rights. Contact us online or at (212) 248-7431 today to schedule a free and confidential consultation.
More Blog Posts:
Jury Awards $18 Million to Plaintiff in Sexual Harassment Suit Against New York Financial Firm and CEO, New York Employment Attorney Blog, July 22, 2015
Plaintiff in New York Lawsuit Alleges Former Employer Retaliated Against Him for Reporting Workplace Sexual Harassment, New York Employment Attorney Blog, June 12, 2015
Lawsuits Allege Sexual Harassment, Retaliation Against Wall Street Financial Firm, Executive, New York Employment Attorney Blog, September 3, 2014