Two New York Pizzeria Workers Succeed in Obtaining a Default Judgment in Their Sexual Harassment Case

When you’ve been the target of sexual harassment at work, it may become necessary to seek relief through the legal system. Once you’ve decided to sue, your case can proceed in a variety of directions. Often, your employer will oppose you vigorously or will seek to settle. Sometimes, though, your employer won’t do anything at all. Just because your employer does nothing, success is not automatically yours. You still have procedural and evidentiary hurdles you must clear to get the compensation you deserve. An experienced New York sexual harassment lawyer can help you ensure you are doing everything necessary to maximize your success.

A sexual harassment case brought by a heterosexual woman and a gay man who worked at a pizzeria is an example of both the variety of potential pathways forward after you sue, and what’s necessary when a defendant does nothing.

The woman, who worked as a server, allegedly encountered both verbal and physical harassment. One of the three men who owned and managed the pizzeria, A.O., allegedly told the server on numerous occasions that he wanted to have sex with her. That owner also allegedly “inappropriately touched and grabbed” her from behind when she was stocking shelves.

The gay male employee, who worked as a cashier, allegedly was on the receiving end of a variety of homophobic harassment handed out by both A.O. and another owner, F.T. The owners, according to the lawsuit, repeatedly warned other male employees to beware of the cashier because he “would like to have sex” with them.

The harassed workers eventually settled with F.T. and accepted an offer of judgment from the third owner, A.L. The pizzeria and A.O., however, took no action. As a result, the employees asked the court to award them a default judgment.

When you’re seeking a default judgment, success requires more than just proving that the defendants failed to respond in a timely fashion even though you properly filed your complaint and properly served those defendants. Success, rather, demands that you provide the court with enough proof to substantiate a valid case of sexual harassment.

Examples of Both Severe and Pervasive Harassment

These two pizzeria workers met that standard with what they presented to the court. The female server alleged extreme instances of harassment, including one of the owners saying that she made him “horny” and that he desired to “eat [her] for dinner.” The server also presented assertions that the same owner would “frequently touch and grab her… sexually assaulting [her].”

These allegations were, according to the court, “more than enough” to meet the “severe or pervasive” harassment standard required by federal law (Title VII,) and given that she satisfied Title VII, she certainly had a valid sexual harassment case under the New York City Human Rights Law (which imposes a lower hurdle than Title VII does.)

While the harassment the male cashier endured was only verbal, it was an extensive barrage, according to the complaint. The man alleged “daily” harassment in which the owners would “make fun of [his] sexual orientation and make sexual and homophobic comments about him in the kitchen to other staff.” When male customers would enter the pizzeria, the owners allegedly would ask the cashier if he wanted to date and/or have sex with them. They also told male employees to “be careful’ and to “watch out” around the cashier because he was gay.

This sort of pervasive taunting was enough to constitute an adverse action that altered the terms and conditions of the cashier’s employment, and it occurred regularly enough that it qualified as “pervasive” under the law.

This meant that both the server and the cashier had established the validity of their sexual harassment claims. As the court noted, their work was not completely finished. Their next step was to appear for something called an “inquest” regarding damages. (That’s the hearing where the court acknowledges at the outset that you’ve been harmed by a violation of the law, and focuses solely on determining exactly how much compensation you’re owed.)

Sexual harassment at work can occur in a variety of ways and can adversely impact you in a variety of ways, too. If you’ve been the victim of that sort of illegal conduct, don’t suffer in silence. The diligent New York sexual harassment attorneys at Phillips & Associates have first-hand experience representing workers in Manhattan, Brooklyn, Staten Island, Queens, the Bronx, Suffolk County, and Nassau County who’ve been harmed by illegal harassment. To find out more about how we can help you, contact us online or at (833) 529-3476 to set up a free and confidential consultation today.

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