Posts tagged with "employment law attorney"

Americans With Disabilities Act

State, county laws dilute effect of disability rulings. The U.S. Supreme Court ruling that narrowed the definition of a disability under the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) will have limited use for Westchester employers struggling with the issue, a pair of lawyers specializing in employment law said. Continue Reading

School Secretary Wins $100G Discrimination Suit

After seven years of allegedly suffering constant harassment, as well as verbal and physical abuse, School Board 8’s long-time secretary won a $100,000 settlement with the Board of Education for their lack of disciplining Dennis Coleman. The controversial school board member at the center of the harassment case still remains on the board. Continue Reading

School Secretary Wins $100G Discrimination Suit

After seven years of allegedly suffering constant harassment, as well as verbal and physical abuse, School Board 8’s long-time secretary won a $100,000 settlement with the Board of Education for their lack of disciplining Dennis Coleman. The controversial school board member at the center of the harassment case still remains on the board. Continue Reading

Manhattan Hotel Hit With Harassment Complaint

NEW YORK – Three housekeepers in Manhattan have filed sexual harassment lawsuits against their former employer after a preliminary investigation found evidence to support the claim that the trio had been groped by their superiors.The housekeepers – Marina Abdullajeva, Monica Quintana and Kathy Salgado – for the Club Quarters Midtown hotel, located at 40 W. 45th Street, are each suing their former bosses for $2 million in damages. Continue Reading

Sexual Harassment in the Workplace: Defeating an Employer’s Defenses

A victim of sexual harassment in the workplace has certain available protections and remedies under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, with respect to unwanted amorous advances, inappropriate touching, or an outright physical assault by another employee or co-worker.  Essentially, a victim of sexual harassment must prove in a civil lawsuit that the harassment was “sufficiently severe or pervasive” to alter the conditions of her employment, and that there was a specific basis for imputing the resulting hostile work environment to her employer (and not merely to the harasser).

Under what has become known as the Faragher/Ellerth defense, employers since 1998 have been permitted by the courts to put forth and establish an affirmative defense to victims’ lawsuits against inappropriately behaving employees, so long as they are able to prove one of two things: A) that the victim unreasonably failed to take advantage of a company’s established procedures and opportunities to prevent sexual harassment (such as policies, training, and complaint mechanisms through human resources), or B) that the victim employee complained about the conduct and the employer took prompt and appropriate corrective action (such as an investigation, discipline, and/or termination of the harasser).

If a defendant company succeeds in proving one of these two elements, that company may not be held liable for the sexual harassment of one of its employees, even under some egregious circumstances.  Today, many companies have policies and procedures in place, and in most circumstances, a company can successfully claim that it would have been “unreasonable” for a victim not to complain about a harasser’s misconduct and to put the company on notice when something untoward occurs.

However, sometimes victims do not complain right away.  In some cases, the harassment is committed by a supervisor – someone in a position of power over the victim, with a stranglehold on the victim’s voice, on her employment, on her will.

Our law makes adjustments accordingly.  Therefore, where the harassment is committed not just by a co-worker of the victim, but by the victim’s work supervisor, the standard shifts dramatically – the employer company is “presumptively responsible” for the harasser’s conduct.  In that instance, also, there is a proscribed limitation under which an employer can put forth the Faragher/Ellerth defense and potentially escape liability.  Specifically, the test becomes whether the supervisor’s harassment (or unwanted sexual advance) culminated in what is known as a “tangible employment action” – such as a demotion, a denial of a promotion, a change in job responsibilities, or a termination of employment.

In other words, in cases of supervisor-subordinate harassment, a trial court applies a test to determine whether the tangible employment action is “linked” in some fashion to the supervisor’s discriminatory harassment.  If indeed a connection is found – if a supervisor, for example, ultimately fires his victim of sexual harassment for fear she will disclose his reprehensible conduct to others – then the Faragher/Ellerth affirmative defense is not available to the employer company.  The purpose of this rule is to insure that, despite the procedures they might put in place to protect their employees from sexual harassment, companies may and often will be held liable and accountable for the actions of supervisors who harass their subordinates and then utilize their positions of power to remove their victims from the workplace.

If you are the victim of sexual harassment in the workplace, we urge you to seek legal advice immediately and to learn your rights.  Our firm has decades of experience in successfully handling sexual harassment and discrimination cases throughout New York and Connecticut, in both state and federal courts.  Our clients present us with the facts; we arm them with the law and the aggressive, informed advocacy to seek justice on their behalf.

If you have any questions about this posting or confidential inquiries concerning the subject matter, please contact Attorney H. Daniel Murphy at hdmurphy@mayalaw.com.

A Woman’s Right – 3 who fought back and won

A cleaning woman, who speaks no English, is raped by a supervisor. A plumber’s boss insists that she change into work clothes in front of male employees. A proofreader is fondled by a coworker. Other employees tell obscene jokes and make sexist remarks.

All three women filed complaints with the New York City Commission on Human Rights – and won.

“Discrimination is a strange animal. So many people don’t realize they are doing it,” said Joseph Maya, the attorney who handled the three cases. “I have cases all the time where someone has been subjected to sexual harassment, one of the most traumatic experiences a person could have.”

“Even with such serious charges, often the respondents don’t think they harassed. They think theirs is a natural reaction to a woman.”

Maya said the city agency investigates every complaint, and if someone “fears retalliation, we will prosecute a retalliation complaint too.”

He said the agency also tries to get companies to implement and adopt sexual harassment policies, telling employes it won’t be tolerated.

“Companies could save thousands of dollars by establishing such policies,” said Maya.

The proofreader he represented received $44,200 from her employer. The plumber got $18,000 and a seperate changing area. The cleaning woman got an undisclosed amount and all supervisors in her company were required to attend sensitivity training.

 

The lawyers at Maya Murphy, P.C., are experienced and knowledgeable employment law practitioners and assist clients in New York City, Bridgeport, Darien, Fairfield, Greenwich, New Canaan, Norwalk, Stamford, Westport, and elsewhere throughout Fairfield County. Should you have any questions about sexual harassment or workplace discrimination or would like to schedule a consultation, please do not hesitate to contact Attorney Joseph C. Maya, Esq. He may be reached at Maya Murphy, P.C., 266 Post Road East, Westport, Connecticut, by telephone at (203) 221-3100, or by email at JMaya@mayalaw.com.

Sexual Emails from Employer Can Constitute Sexually Hostile Work Environment

In a recent New York case, the New York Appellate Division held that an employer’s sending of sexually offensive e-mails to both male and female employees, nonetheless, subjected female employees to differential treatment and thus could support hostile work environment claim under New York City Human Rights Law.[1] [2]

The plaintiffs in the action were three women who worked in the defendant’s medical office as medical clerks and physician’s assistants, respectfully.  During the latter half of 2006, the employer sent a series of offensive and sexually explicit emails to all of the staff, including both the male and female employees.  Some examples of the offensive content in the emails include: a depiction of headless female body attached to a buttock and pair of legs, described as “The Perfect Woman;” a short rated-R movie scene of a woman using a vibrator; and a moving image of snow sculpture in the shape of a penis shooting out snow balls.[3] In addition to the emails, plaintiffs further alleged that the employer told her that she should get breast implants, that the employer pointed out to her on one occasion that her underwear was exposed but told her that she should not have adjusted her pants because he had been “enjoying” himself, that the employer placed whipped cream on the side of his mouth and asked her if “this looked familiar”, that the defendant repeatedly told her that she needed to lose weight, and that the employer once touched her rear end and told her she needed to “tighten it up.”[4]

The United States Supreme Court, in cases brought under Title VII, has held that a hostile work environment exists “[w]hen the workplace is permeated with discriminatory intimidation, ridicule, and insult that is sufficiently severe or pervasive to alter the conditions of the victim’s employment and create an abusive working environment”[5] “Whether an environment is ‘hostile’ or ‘abusive’ can be determined only by looking at all the circumstances. These may include the frequency of the discriminatory conduct; its severity; whether it is physically threatening or humiliating, or a mere offensive utterance; and whether it unreasonably interferes with an employee’s work performance.”[6]

While the employer argued that the women were not treated differently based on their sex because both women and men were exposed to the emails distributed by him, the Court recognized that taken in context with the inappropriate sexual comments and advances, the employer emails were sent in an effort to specifically provoke a reaction from the women in the office and single them out from the male employees.  The Court concluded, “the comments and emails objectifying women’s bodies and exposing them to sexual ridicule, even if considered “isolated,” clearly signaled that defendant considered it appropriate to foster an office environment that degraded women.”[7]
The lawyers at Maya Murphy, P.C., are experienced and knowledgeable employment law practitioners and assist clients in New York, Bridgeport, Darien, Fairfield, Greenwich, New Canaan, Norwalk, Stamford, Westport, and elsewhere in Fairfield County. Should you have any questions about Title VII and workplace discrimination or any other employment law matter, please do not hesitate to contact Attorney Joseph C. Maya, Esq. He may be reached at Maya Murphy, P.C., 266 Post Road East, Westport, Connecticut, by telephone at (203) 221-3100, or by email at JMaya@mayalaw.com.



[1] Hernandez v. Kaisman, 957 N.Y.S.2d 53, 56-57 (App. Div. 2012)

[2] New York Human Rights Law, http://www.nyc.gov/html/cchr/html/ch1.html#7

[3] Hernandez at 56

[4] Id.

[5] Harris v. Forklift Sys., 510 U.S. 17, 21, 114 (1993)

[6] Id.

[7] Id. at 57

A Summary of Sexual Harassment Workplace Policies in Connecticut

Unfortunately, many instances of sexual harassment in the workplace go unreported, due either to a fear of retaliation or an uncertainty as to whether the conduct constituted sexual harassment.  Whatever the case, no employee should feel demeaned in any way while on the job.  The following provides an overview of the various laws and regulations concerning sexual harassment in Connecticut, and the various steps employers must take to ensure compliance with the law.

First and foremost, even before consulting an attorney, anyone with questions or concerns relating to human rights or discrimination issues in Connecticut should consult Connecticut’s Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities (CHRO), which states that its mission “is to eliminate discrimination through civil and human rights law enforcement and to establish equal opportunity and justice for all persons within the state through advocacy and education.”  The site provides valuable resources and links.  With regard to sexual harassment, the site contains a step-by-step guide on what to do if you feel you have been the victim of sexual harassment.

The Commission gets its authority from Connecticut General Statute § 46a-54, which grants the Commission the authority to “require an employer having three or more employees to post in a prominent and accessible location information concerning the illegality of sexual harassment and remedies available to victims of sexual harassment,” and second, “to require an employer having fifty or more employees to provide two hours of training and education to all supervisory employees [ . . . ].”  The statute further provides that the training and education “shall include information concerning the federal and state statutory provisions concerning sexual harassment and remedies available to victims of sexual harassment.”

By way of reference, sexual harassment refers to “any unwelcome sexual advances or requests for sexual favors or any conduct of a sexual nature.”

The information that is required of an employer having three or more employees includes, but is not limited to:

  • The statutory definition of sexual harassment and examples of different types of sexual harassment;
  • Notice that sexual harassment is prohibited by the State of Connecticut’s Discriminatory Employment Practices Law and Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act;
  • The remedies available to a victim of sexual harassment, which can include but are not limited to:
    • Cease and desist orders;
    • Back pay;
    • Compensatory damages; and
    • Hiring, promotion or reinstatement;
  • Notice that the harasser may be subject to civil and/or criminal penalties;
  • The contact information for the CHRO;
  • A statement that Connecticut law requires that a formal written complaint be filed with the Commission within 180 days of the date when the alleged harassment occurred;
  • A large bold-faced notice stating, “Sexual Harassment is Illegal.”

An employer with fifty or more employees, in addition to the aforementioned requirements, must provide two hours of specialized sexual harassment training, which “shall be conducted in a classroom-like setting, using clear and understandable language and in a format that allows participants to ask questions and receive answers.”  The statute provides a long list of the specific topics that an employer can and should include in the training.

It is the hope that the above provides a concise, easy to understand summary of the policies that an employer must abide by when it comes to sexual harassment.  If you feel that you have been the victim of sexual harassment, or even if you are not sure, you should consult with an attorney experienced in employment law.  The attorneys at Maya Murphy, P.C. regularly represent employees throughout the Fairfield County and New York City regions, and are ready to advocate on your behalf.  If you have questions or want to schedule a consultation, please contact Joseph C. Maya, Esq. at 203-221-3100 or at JMaya@mayalaw.com.

Failure to Hire Due to Race, Gender, Sexual Orientation… and Political Viewpoints?

By Lindsay E. Raber, Esq.

The State of Connecticut has in place a particularly comprehensive, sweeping statutory scheme (collectively the Connecticut Fair Employment Practices Act[1]) that outlines the prohibition of discriminatory practices in employment on a variety of bases:

Race, color, religious creed, sex, age, gender identity or expression, marital status, national origin, ancestry, present of past history of mental disability, mental retardation, learning disability or physical disability, including but not limited to blindness.[2]

LGBT individuals enjoy recognized protections under State workplace discrimination law.[3] Furthermore, there are additional federal laws through which an aggrieved party may seek recourse.[4] Thus, under Connecticut law, employers, including school districts, cannot refuse to hire or discharge an employee on any of the above bases.

What happens, however, if an aggrieved party alleges that he or she was not hired because of his or her political beliefs and advocacy? Such is the case of Teresa Wagner, who sought to teach law courses at the University of Iowa College of Law (UI). A staunch conservative Republican and UI alum, Ms. Wagner “previously worked for the National Right to Life Committee, which opposes abortion and euthanasia, and the Family Research Council, which takes conservative positions on social issues.”[5] At the time Ms. Wagner applied for two legal research and writing positions at UI, she was “already working part-time at the law school’s writing center” and “had received positive reviews” for her performance in that capacity.[6] She did very well during the interview process and “her application was well received by the Committee.”[7]

On the other hand, the law school faculty “is viewed as being liberal. Only one out of 50 professors is a registered Republican.”[8] In an email to the dean of UI, the associate dean wrote:

Frankly, one thing that worries me is that some people may be opposed to Teresa serving in any role in part at least because they so despise her politics (and especially her activism about it).[9]

In addition, Ms. Wagner’s “primary, vocal opponent to hiring her” was a professor who “had clerked for Justice Blackmun during the time Roe v. Wade was written, has written tributes to Justice Blackmun and his abortion jurisprudence, and has published legal articles advocating a pro-choice viewpoint on abortion.”[10]

Subsequently, a job offer was extended to an adjunct legal research and writing instructor who was less qualified and “portrayed himself as a liberal to other employees at the Writing Center.”[11] The second position remained unfilled, and Ms. Wagner received word that she was not being hired. She filed a civil rights lawsuit in federal court, alleging UI’s dean discriminated against her in violation of the First Amendment’s right to political speech and association. However, the district court granted summary judgment in favor of UI, thus dismissing the case, citing qualified immunity protection.

However, on appeal, the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed, finding that “[t]he district court erred in finding that qualified immunity protects [UI’s dean] from liability in her individual capacity.” As the Court noted in part, “[UI’s dean] had several indications that Wagner’s political beliefs and associations may have played a role in the faculty’s hiring process.”[12] Despite such notice, the UI dean failed to hire Ms. Wagner, and her “position as a supervisor does not shield her from liability.”[13]

The trial in this case has already begun, and it will be interesting to see the results. Though Connecticut does not recognize political affiliation as a protected class in discrimination cases, no doubt the outcome of this case may result in widespread implications if the courts find in Ms. Wagner’s favor.

If you are the victim of discriminatory practices and treatment in the workplace, it is imperative that you consult with an experienced employment law practitioner. The lawyers at Maya Murphy, P.C., assist clients in Bridgeport, Darien, Fairfield, Greenwich, New Canaan, Norwalk, Stamford, and Westport. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact Attorney Joseph C. Maya. He may be reached at Maya Murphy, P.C., 266 Post Road East, Westport, Connecticut (located in Fairfield County), by telephone at (203) 221-3100, or by email at JMaya@mayalaw.com.

[1] Connecticut General Statutes § 46a-51 et seq.

[2] Connecticut General Statutes § 46a-60(a)(1).

[3] Connecticut General Statutes § 46a-81c.

[4] See, e.g., Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA), and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

[5] “Lawsuit Pits Political Activism Against Campus Diversity,” by Adam Liptak. January 9, 2012: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/01/10/us/sidebar-lawsuit-against-iowa-law-school-pits-activism-against-diversity.html

[6] “Trial starts in liberal bias lawsuit against former University of Iowa law dean,” by Chris Minor. October 16, 2012: http://wqad.com/2012/10/15/trial-starts-in-liberal-bias-lawsuit-against-former-university-of-iowa-law-dean/?hpt=ju_bn5

[7] Wagner v. Jones, No. 10-2588 at 3 (8th Cir. Ct. June 16, 2011).

[8] Id.

[9] Id. at 7.

[10] Id. at 6.

[11] Id.

[12] Id. at 19.

[13] Id. at 22.

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Failure to Hire Due to Race, Gender, Sexual Orientation… and Political Viewpoints?

By Lindsay E. Raber, Esq.

The State of Connecticut has in place a particularly comprehensive, sweeping statutory scheme (collectively the Connecticut Fair Employment Practices Act[1]) that outlines the prohibition of discriminatory practices in employment on a variety of bases:

Race, color, religious creed, sex, age, gender identity or expression, marital status, national origin, ancestry, present of past history of mental disability, mental retardation, learning disability or physical disability, including but not limited to blindness.[2]

LGBT individuals enjoy recognized protections under State workplace discrimination law.[3] Furthermore, there are additional federal laws through which an aggrieved party may seek recourse.[4] Thus, under Connecticut law, employers, including school districts, cannot refuse to hire or discharge an employee on any of the above bases.

What happens, however, if an aggrieved party alleges that he or she was not hired because of his or her political beliefs and advocacy? Such is the case of Teresa Wagner, who sought to teach law courses at the University of Iowa College of Law (UI). A staunch conservative Republican and UI alum, Ms. Wagner “previously worked for the National Right to Life Committee, which opposes abortion and euthanasia, and the Family Research Council, which takes conservative positions on social issues.”[5] At the time Ms. Wagner applied for two legal research and writing positions at UI, she was “already working part-time at the law school’s writing center” and “had received positive reviews” for her performance in that capacity.[6] She did very well during the interview process and “her application was well received by the Committee.”[7]

On the other hand, the law school faculty “is viewed as being liberal. Only one out of 50 professors is a registered Republican.”[8] In an email to the dean of UI, the associate dean wrote:

Frankly, one thing that worries me is that some people may be opposed to Teresa serving in any role in part at least because they so despise her politics (and especially her activism about it).[9]

In addition, Ms. Wagner’s “primary, vocal opponent to hiring her” was a professor who “had clerked for Justice Blackmun during the time Roe v. Wade was written, has written tributes to Justice Blackmun and his abortion jurisprudence, and has published legal articles advocating a pro-choice viewpoint on abortion.”[10]

Subsequently, a job offer was extended to an adjunct legal research and writing instructor who was less qualified and “portrayed himself as a liberal to other employees at the Writing Center.”[11] The second position remained unfilled, and Ms. Wagner received word that she was not being hired. She filed a civil rights lawsuit in federal court, alleging UI’s dean discriminated against her in violation of the First Amendment’s right to political speech and association. However, the district court granted summary judgment in favor of UI, thus dismissing the case, citing qualified immunity protection.

However, on appeal, the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed, finding that “[t]he district court erred in finding that qualified immunity protects [UI’s dean] from liability in her individual capacity.” As the Court noted in part, “[UI’s dean] had several indications that Wagner’s political beliefs and associations may have played a role in the faculty’s hiring process.”[12] Despite such notice, the UI dean failed to hire Ms. Wagner, and her “position as a supervisor does not shield her from liability.”[13]

The trial in this case has already begun, and it will be interesting to see the results. Though Connecticut does not recognize political affiliation as a protected class in discrimination cases, no doubt the outcome of this case may result in widespread implications if the courts find in Ms. Wagner’s favor.

If you are the victim of discriminatory practices and treatment in the workplace, it is imperative that you consult with an experienced employment law practitioner. The lawyers at Maya Murphy, P.C., assist clients in Bridgeport, Darien, Fairfield, Greenwich, New Canaan, Norwalk, Stamford, and Westport. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact Attorney Joseph C. Maya. He may be reached at Maya Murphy, P.C., 266 Post Road East, Westport, Connecticut (located in Fairfield County), by telephone at (203) 221-3100, or by email at JMaya@mayalaw.com.

[1] Connecticut General Statutes § 46a-51 et seq.

[2] Connecticut General Statutes § 46a-60(a)(1).

[3] Connecticut General Statutes § 46a-81c.

[4] See, e.g., Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA), and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

[5] “Lawsuit Pits Political Activism Against Campus Diversity,” by Adam Liptak. January 9, 2012: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/01/10/us/sidebar-lawsuit-against-iowa-law-school-pits-activism-against-diversity.html

[6] “Trial starts in liberal bias lawsuit against former University of Iowa law dean,” by Chris Minor. October 16, 2012: http://wqad.com/2012/10/15/trial-starts-in-liberal-bias-lawsuit-against-former-university-of-iowa-law-dean/?hpt=ju_bn5

[7] Wagner v. Jones, No. 10-2588 at 3 (8th Cir. Ct. June 16, 2011).

[8] Id.

[9] Id. at 7.

[10] Id. at 6.

[11] Id.

[12] Id. at 19.

[13] Id. at 22.

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