Articles Posted in Sexual Harassment, Hostile Work Environment and Gender Discrimination

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WHOLESALE SEXUAL HARASSMENT

Sexual.Harassment.Posterboard.jpgOur Award-Winning New York Sexual Harassment Lawyer has been asked to comment on a case filed by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) against Costco Wholesale Corp (“Costco”). This case is discussed generally below. If you have any questions about your hostile work environment or other forms of harassment and discrimination, contact our office for a confidential consultation to learn your rights, options and how to protect yourself. It can be difficult to speak up but it is important to assert your rights and stop the harassment.

EEOC v. Costco Wholesale Corp.
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Thumbnail image for sexharassment.jpgSexual harassment remains a serious problem in the workplace. Our Award Winning New York Employment Law Attorney often speaks about gender discrimination and harassment in the workplace. This blog will discuss a recent case where at least 13 female employees were subjected to physical and verbal sexual harassment at work. To add insult to injury, 3 female employees were fired after they complained of the harassment. It is important for victims of sexual harassment to speak up. Contact our office for a confidential consultation to learn your rights, options and how to protect yourself in an abusive environment.

The Complaint’s Allegations of Sexual Harassment

The female workers were employed at Smokin’ Spuds Inc. d/b/a MountainKing Pot which operated a potato packing plant in Colorado. The Complaint alleges that Production Supervisor Samuel Valdez engaged in sexually inappropriate activity and harassed the female employees. Specifically, it was alleged that Mr. Valdez pulled one of the female employees who reported to him into his office, turned off the lights and forced her to sit on his lap. Second, it was alleged that the supervisor made sexually offensive comments, gestures and advances to the female employees. Third, as if that was not bad enough, it was alleged that he inappropriately touched the female employees and licked his finger and put in the ear of a female employee. Clearly, the alleged conduct was offensive and did not stop even though the female employees complained and asked for it stop. Finally, it was alleged that the supervisor retaliated against the employees when they rejected his advances by giving them less favorable assignments and disciplining them. The employees did not allegedly get any help from management who refused to take steps to stop the harassment. Because the harassment was not stopped, it allegedly went on for years.

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Scales.of.Justice.Men.Women.Dollar.Photo.Club.12.9.15.jpgNew York Governor Andrew Cuomo and the State Department of Labor (“DOL”) have taken several steps in recent weeks that will significantly affect employers in 2016. Among other changes to be discussed in upcoming blogs, these changes concern the rights of women in the workplace. Our Award-Winning New York Sexual Harassment Lawyer summarizes some of those changes below.

Updates to Statutes Concerning Women’s Equality

Governor Cuomo signed into law five new statutory provisions affecting women’s rights in the workplace, all of which will become effective on January 19, 2016:

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LGBT.Flag.Waved.Dollar.Photo.Club.12.4.15.jpgWhile our community generally discourages and combats discrimination, such as ageism and racism, few groups find themselves so openly and frequently subjected to discrimination as those of us who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, and/or transgender (LGBT). From being denied services to being illegally denied marriage licenses, our society finds itself still battling the same injustices, but with new targets.

With federal statutes not directly addressing this type of discrimination, many employers may assume that it is permissible or even acceptable to discriminate against the LGBT. While the EEOC takes the position that the federal prohibition against gender discrimination includes transgender, and some federal courts have agreed, the federal law as applied in New York is not yet clear.

In New York, however, state and local human rights laws strongly and directly condemn and prohibit discrimination and harassment in the workplace based on sexual orientation and transgender discrimination. All LGBT workers in New York State who have suffered on-the-job discrimination have recourse, and the recourse for transgender persons is even clearer in NYC. Our Award-Winning New York Employment Attorney has counseled and advised clients with regard to sexual orientation discrimination claims in the workplace and is ready to speak with you about your employment discrimination concerns.

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Sexual.Harassment.Holiday.Mistletoe.Dollar.Photo.Club.11.24.15.jpgOur Award-Winning New York Employment Law Attorney is often asked to speak about sexual harassment in the workplace. With the approaching holidays, it is important that employers, management, and other staff are made aware that holiday parties, whether in the office or at work-sponsored events at other venues, are not license to behave badly. While holiday parties may be an excellent morale boost for employees and offer an opportunity for team building, offensive conduct may make the season a little less jolly for all.

Most are aware that federal, state, and some local laws prohibit sexual harassment in the workplace (for more detail on what constitutes sexual harassment in the workplace, generally, please see our several previous blogs on sexual harassment, below). While employers are not generally responsible for acts of sexual harassment that result from non-work-related, off-duty interactions between employees, employers may be liable for incidents that occur at work events like holiday parties.

Behavior, in part or in full, that has constituted sexual harassment during a holiday party includes:

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sexharassment.jpgOur Award-Winning New York Employment Law Attorney has represented victims of sexual harassment in the workplace. Sexual harassment is a form of gender discrimination and is prohibited by federal, state, and local laws. Specifically, the federal statute – Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended, prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex (as well as race, religion, color, or national origin) in the terms and condition of employment which include: recruitment, selection, assignment, transfer, layoff, termination, training or development opportunities, wages and salaries, sick leave time and pay, vacation time and pay, overtime work and pay, medical, hospital, life and accident insurance, or other employee benefits.

There are two types of sexual harassment cases and they are discussed below for your general information:

1. Quid Pro Quo

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Sexual.Harassment.Hand.on.Shoulder.Dollar.Photo.Club.9.10.15.jpgOur Award-Winning New York Employment Lawyer discusses a recent multi-million dollar jury verdict in a sexual harassment case. Sexual Harassment remains a serious problem in workplaces across the country. In Rennenger v. ToyQuest et al., female call center employees regularly were targets of offensive terms and comments including being called “sluts” and “whores” and carriers of sexually transmitted diseases. In addition to verbal harassment, the female employees were subjected to physical harassment – some were made to sit on a male co-worker’s lap and another had her head grabbed by her supervisor and forced into his crotch. One of the female employees, Danielle Renneager, was fired after she complained of sexual harassment and she brought a lawsuit. It is unlawful to retaliate against an employee who makes a good faith belief of sexual harassment. The jury awarded almost $12 million dollars including $10 million dollars in punitive damages. Cases involving other female employees are pending as well. There are two types of sexual harassment cases – hostile work environment and quid pro quo. This case falls into the first type and both are discussed briefly below.

HOSTILE WORK ENVIRONMENT SEXUAL HARASSMENT

The first type of sexual harassment is called a “hostile work environment.” A hostile work environment may exist if an employee experiences discriminatory conduct or harassment in the workplace so severe or pervasive that he or she feels intimidated, ridiculed or insulted. As a result, the employee’s job performance is adversely affected. In order to legally constitute a hostile work environment, the environment must be considered “hostile” by you and by a reasonable person’s standard. The courts will evaluate the totality of the circumstances. In general, below are some examples of prohibited conduct:

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Sexual.Harassment.Hand.on.Shoulder.Dollar.Photo.Club.9.10.15.jpgOur Award Winning New York City Sexual Harassment Lawyer has been asked to comment on a recent settlement involving Con Edison Company of New York, Inc. The Company has agreed to pay up to $3.8 million dollars to a class of current and former female employees who alleged that they were subject to sexual harassment and/or other forms of gender discrimination. Sexual harassment is wrong and should not be tolerated in the workplace. If you have any questions or concerns about inappropriate activity in the workplace, please contact us for a confidential consultation.

The Allegations

The workers alleged that they were subject to a hostile work environment and faced widespread harassment by male co-workers. The workers claimed that they complained but no remedial action was taken by the Company. Some of the specific allegations of discriminatory treatment include:

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Harassment.Text.Box.Dollar.Photo.Club.7.29.15.jpgThe Appellate Division in New York State recently ruled that a whistleblower complaint under Section 740 does not bar a plaintiff filing a separate sexual harassment complaint. In Lee v. Woori Bank, two male employees reported allegations of sexual harassment to a supervisor. Specifically, both employees alleged that a supervisory employee (i) “consistently used foul language, profanity, talked dirty, and made sexual comments”; (ii) “made unwelcome homosexual advances and comments” towards one of the male employees; and (iii) made unwelcome physical touching of one of the employee’s buttocks and body. The employees allege they were demoted and fired after they complained of the supervisor’s conduct. Our New York Sexual Harassment Attorneys have represented many employees who have been subject to unwanted advances and/or been retaliated against because of their complaints.

What is Section 740 of the New York Labor Law and What is its Waiver Provision?

Whistleblower.Sign.Held.Up.Dollar.Photo.Club.7.29.15.jpgUnder Section 740, an employer may not take any “any retaliatory personnel action against [said] employee because such employee . . . discloses, threatens to disclose to a supervisor or to a public body an activity, policy or practice of the employer that is in violation of law, rule or regulation which violation creates and presents a substantial and specific danger to the public health or safety.” Labor Law § 740(2)(a). The law also precludes an employer from taking retaliatory action if an employee objects to or refuses to participate in any such activity. See Section 740(2)(c). The court dismissed plaintiffs’ claims under Section 740 because the alleged conduct did not create a substantial and specific danger to the public health and safety – it primarily focused on inappropriate conduct towards them.