Sexual Harassment Complaint Resulted in Retaliation, According to New York State Agency Employee’s Lawsuit

An employee of the New York State Office of Mental Health (OMH) has filed a lawsuit in federal court alleging sexual harassment, hostile work environment, retaliation, and other claims. Snyder v. NYS Office of Mental Health, et al., No. 6:14-cv-06525, complaint (W.D.N.Y., Sep. 11, 2014). She claims that an officer sexually harassed her by touching her inappropriately, making sexual comments, and sending her sexually explicit email messages. She also claims that state officials retaliated against her after she complained to the New York State Division of Human Rights (NYSDHR), including what she calls an “interrogation” in which officials implied that she was to blame for any sexual harassment she might have experienced. The lawsuit asserts causes of action under several federal statutes and seeks $300,000 in compensatory and punitive damages.

The plaintiff began working for OMH at the Rochester Psychiatric Center (RPC) in August 2004. She claims that the first instance of sexual harassment occurred in February 2013, when an officer allegedly “grabbed [her] breast while in [the] pre-shift room.” Id. at 8. The officer engaged in further acts of sexual harassment over the next month, the plaintiff claims, including “leers, gestures of a sexual nature, [and] inappropriate touching.” Id. She claims that she did not confront the officer about this behavior at first, but after he sent her an email that she considered inappropriate, she told him so and reported the incidents to her supervisor. The supervisor referred the matter to the Affirmative Action office, which allegedly handled the matter “inappropriately.” Id.

The officer and other employees allegedly began harassing the plaintiff after she made her complaint, and she claims that the hostile work environment made it “impossible to perform daily functions of her job.” Id. at 9. The Affirmative Action office did not act on her complaint right away, and she claims that it did not provide her with updates on any investigation. She also claims that a sergeant in the Safety Department hindered a criminal investigation of her complaint in May 2013. Id.

In July 2013, the plaintiff filed her first complaint with the NYSDHR, alleging sexual harassment and other claims. After this, she claims that officials began planning to retaliate against her. On October 4, 2013, she states that she was “interrogate[d]” by several officials who, she claims, treated her like a “sexual deviant.” Id. at 10. The officials allegedly presented her with statements from other employees suggesting that she was “flirtatious” and that she somehow deserved to be harassed. Id. Subsequent meetings allegedly included similar claims about her.

The plaintiff also filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which issued her a “right to sue” letter in the summer of 2014. She filed suit in September against OMH, RPC, and the officer who allegedly sexually harassed her. She claims that she has suffered serious emotional distress, including depression, anxiety, panic disorder, and PTSD. Her lawsuit asserts claims under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq., the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967, 29 U.S.C. § 621 et seq., and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, 42 U.S.C. § 12101 et seq.

The New York sexual harassment attorneys at Phillips & Associates represent the rights of employees who have been the victims of unlawful employment practices. To schedule a free and confidential consultation with a knowledgeable and experienced employee rights advocate, please contact us today online or at (212) 248-7431.

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