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White Plains Sexual Harassment Update: Student Athletes Sue Nyack College and Coach

Thumbnail image for Sexual.Harassment.Posterboard.jpgIn October, three members of the Nyack College Softball team sued the college’s former head coach, Kurt Ludwigsen, Nyack College and other individuals for claims based on, among others, a pattern and practice of sexual harassment and sexual assaults that occurred at college events or college sanctioned events during the 2014-2015 academic year. The Complaint was filed in federal court in White Plains and also alleges that Nyack negligently hired Mr. Ludwigsen due to prior allegations of sexual harassment and assault as a softball coach. Mr. Ludwigsen reportedly was charged with 7 counts of felony coercion in the first degree, 94 counts of sexual assault in the second degree, 94 counts of sexual assault in the third degree and 2 counts of harassment in the second degree earlier this year by the District Attorney’s office in Rockland County. In total, it has been reported he was indicted on 197 counts of improper sexual contact with 13 softball players. Mr. Ludwigsen’s employment was terminated in or about March 2015. If you were subject to sexual harassment in the workplace or at school, contact our office for a confidential consultation to learn your rights, options and how to protect yourself. It is important to speak up.

The Specific Allegations

The harassment alleged is severe and unwelcome. Specifically, according to paragraph 2 of the First Amended Complaint, it is alleged that Ludwigsen was “routinely licking his players’ ears, kissing their lips and faces, slapping their buttocks, grabbing their breasts, directing them to sit on his lap, lying on top of them, commenting about their physical attributes, having sexually explicit conversations with them, inviting a pornographic actress known as Allie Haze to practice and directing students to life counseling sessions with her, directing an underage drinking outing where his players were instructed to dress in cocktail dresses and dance with male strangers and offering to assist players to attain employment in the adult entertainment industry.” The Amended Complaint further alleges that the coach engaged in a pattern of intimidation against the players and that the players were retaliated against after they complaint. It is alleged that school officials witnessed some instances of sexual harassment and failed to take appropriate measures to stop the inappropriate activity or correct it, even after complaints were filed by the players.

The Amended Complaint includes the following causes of action: (i)
Violation of Rights Under Title IX; (ii) Retaliation in Violation of Title IX; (iii) Negligent Hiring; (iv) Negligent Supervision; (v) Negligent Retention; (vi) Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress; (vii) Negligent Inflection of Emotional Distress; and (viii) Battery against Ludwigsen.

It is important to note that this case is in its very early stages and that Nyack College, Mr. Ludwigsen and the other defendants have not had the opportunity to file a response to the allegations. The defendants may deny the allegations and vigorously defend themselves. Although the allegations appear to be egregious, readers should not simply assume that they are true before the case has progressed, the strength and merits are developed and both sides have an the opportunity to respond. While criminal charges have been filed, there has not been a conviction (to date). This is an interesting case to follow. One of the typical hurdles that sexual harassment plaintiffs face is the “he said/she said” defense where there are no witnesses; however, in this case, it appears that the harassment was so pervasive that there were multiple witnesses including school officials.

Know.Your.Rights.Dollar.Photo.Club.3.9.15.jpgSexual harassment is wrong and should not be tolerated in the workplace or in a school setting. The allegations in this case are especially troubling as they concern an individual with significant power over the players in their athletic endeavors with the potential to impact their academic success as well. If you or someone you know is a victim of unlawful harassment and wants to learn his or her rights or has questions, contact our office for a confidential consultation.

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