Sexual Harassment on Staten Island Ferry Endangers the Public, According to Lawsuit

Sexual harassment in the workplace can have a devastating impact, causing financial, emotional, and even physical harm. While that impact is usually—and justifiably—the focus, it is worth noting that sexual harassment is also bad for business, not only because it can result in civil liability but also because of the damage it does to a company’s productivity. Sexual harassment can even pose a danger to the public, as a lawsuit currently pending in a Brooklyn federal court alleges. The plaintiff claims that an environment of sexual harassment led to her supervisors ignoring her communications while she was working in her capacity as an assistant captain on the Staten Island Ferry. KA v. City of New York, No. 1:17-cv-00378, complaint (E.D.N.Y., Jan. 23, 2017). A lack of contact between a ferry and ferry employees on land, the plaintiff alleges, puts ferry passengers at risk.

Title VII of the federal Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex, as well as retaliation against an employee who speaks out against such unlawful conduct. The legal definition of sex discrimination includes various forms of sexual harassment, such as demands for sexual activity of some sort as a condition of employment. It also includes unwanted remarks or overtures of a sexual nature, as well as sexualized conduct that creates a hostile work environment. The New York State Human Rights Law (NYSHRL) includes similar provisions that apply statewide, and the New York City Human Rights Law (NYCHRL) provides these protections at the city level.

According to her complaint, the plaintiff has worked for the Staten Island Ferry for about 10 years, from 2007 to 2008 and from April 2009 to the present. She states that she became licensed to captain a ferry in 2010, and she has held the position of assistant captain since about 2011. She has sought promotion to captain but alleges that her requests have been met with either “vague, evasive, and ultimately empty comments” or “definitive, discriminatory remarks…such as…’you can’t stand up to the men.’” KA, complaint at 5-6.

The plaintiff alleges that a ferry captain sexually harassed her on a regular basis from 2011 to 2013. She eventually filed a police complaint and made an internal equal employment opportunity (EEO) complaint. The EEO investigation resulted in a directive, issued in 2014, that the captain have “no contact” with the plaintiff. She alleges, however, that “the ‘no contact’ directives were and continue to be poorly enforced, if at all.” Id. at 7.

In early 2016, the captain allegedly returned to active duty, and the plaintiff expressed concern that they would be assigned shifts together. She claims that the director of operations “tersely dismissed those concerns.” Id. at 8. She further alleges that efforts to enforce the “no contact” directive have resulted in significant inconvenience to her, and she regularly has to remind employees about the directive.

An allegation in the complaint that particularly stands out is the claim that “certain Ferry employees will no longer respond to Plaintiff when she requests a ‘passing agreement’ with another vessel.” Id. at 11. Since these agreements are essential to preventing collisions between ferries, the alleged harassment and retaliation pose a risk to public safety.

The skilled and experienced sexual harassment attorneys at Phillips & Associates advocate on behalf of employees, former employees, and job applicants in New York City, helping them assert their rights in claims for employment law violations like sexual harassment and sex discrimination. To schedule a free and confidential consultation with a member of our team, contact us today online or at (212) 248-7431.

More Blog Posts:

Sexual Harassment Suit Against Radio Station Describes Work Environment Similar to Television’s “Mad Men”, New York Employment Attorney Blog, January 19, 2012

Female Dockworkers Experience Discrimination, Harassment on the New Jersey Waterfront, New York Employment Attorney Blog, December 15, 2011

Staten Island Ferry Deckhands Used Security Cameras for a “Peepshow,” New Lawsuit Claims, New York Employment Attorney Blog, December 7, 2011

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