Posts tagged with "sexual orientation"

Damage Award in Sexual Harassment case reduced from $500,000 to $50,000

In a case before the Supreme Court of New York, the Court modified a $500,000 damage award for mental anguish from sexual harassment to $50,000.  The Court found the half million dollar damage award by the Commissioner of Human Rights excessive and stated, “In sexual harassment proceedings with the State Division of Human Rights, damage awards for mental anguish and humiliation must be based upon actual pecuniary loss and emotional injury; care must be taken to insure that the award is compensatory and not punitive in nature.”[1]

The petitioner in the case was a female high school student employed by Young Legends, LLC in a franchise sandwich shop in the City of Norwich.  In January 2007 the teenage employee filed a complaint with the State Division of Human Rights alleging that Dale Blackwood, her supervisor and the owner of Young Legends, subjected her to sexual harassment during her employment.  She testified about Blackwood’s “touchy feely” interactions with female employees and offensive sexual remarks.[2]  In particular Blackwood put constant pressure on the petitioner to visit him alone in his apartment and when she eventually did so, he forced her to engage in sexual intercourse.  When Blackwood asked her to return to his apartment, she refused.  In a series of angry, insulting text messages he told her that her refusal meant she was quitting her job.

Following a public hearing the Administrative Law Judge determined that the petitioner had been subjected to quid pro quo and hostile work environment sexual harassment and that Blackwood was personally liable.  The Judge recommended a damage award of $1,218.75 for lost wages and $25,000 for mental anguish and humiliation. On administrative review, the Commissioner of Human Rights modified the order by increasing the mental anguish award to $500,000.[3]

On appeal the Supreme Court of New York indicated that in sexual harassment and discrimination proceedings with the State Division of Human Rights, damage awards for mental anguish and humiliation must be based on actual pecuniary loss and emotional injury.  Damage awards are meant to compensate the victim rather than be punitive in nature.  While Blackwood’s conduct was completely reprehensible, the court compared the evidence to similar sexual harassment and discrimination cases to conclude that the Commissioner’s award was excessive and reduced it to $50,000.[4]

 

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 a sexual harassment claim or 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] New York State Div. of Human Rights v. Young Legends, LLC, 90 A.D.3d 1265, 1269-70 (2011)

[2] Id. at 1266.

[3] Id.

[4] Id. at 1270.

Hostile Work Environment vs. Quid Pro Quo Sexual Harassment

As an employment law attorney I can get too accustomed to the legal jargon.  One question frequently asked by prospective clients is “what is the difference between hostile work environment and quid pro quo sexual harassment?”  While both types of employment discrimination are illegal and actionable, they can take very different forms.

Perhaps the most succinct explanation of the two causes of action comes from a four-year old Connecticut Appellate Court case: Quid pro quo sexual harassment, as its name suggests, conditions employment on the return of sexual favors; hostile environment sexual harassment is conduct that “has the purpose or effect of unreasonably interfering with an individual’s work performance or creating an intimidating, hostile, or offensive working environment.”

There is a related variant, retaliation for complaining about sexual harassment, that also gives rise to a cause of action but which must be separately pleaded and proven.  That is why a victim of sexual harassment or retaliation should consult with an experienced employment law litigator before framing the particular allegations of a lawsuit.  At trial, you will be held to the allegations of your Complaint and limited to presenting only evidence in support of your claims.  Thus, if you plead quid pro quo, you may not be able to prove hostile work environment, or vice versa.

The employment law attorneys in the Westport, Connecticut office of Maya Murphy, P.C. have extensive experience in the negotiation and litigation of all sorts of employment-related disputes and assist clients from Greenwich, Stamford, New Canaan, Darien, Norwalk, Westport and Fairfield in resolving such issues.  Please contact our Westport office at 203-221-3100.

Hostile Work Environment vs. Quid Pro Quo Sexual Harassment

As an employment law attorney I can get too accustomed to the legal jargon.  One question frequently asked by prospective clients is “what is the difference between hostile work environment and quid pro quo sexual harassment?”  While both types of employment discrimination are illegal and actionable, they can take very different forms.

Perhaps the most succinct explanation of the two causes of action comes from a four-year old Connecticut Appellate Court case: Quid pro quo sexual harassment, as its name suggests, conditions employment on the return of sexual favors; hostile environment sexual harassment is conduct that “has the purpose or effect of unreasonably interfering with an individual’s work performance or creating an intimidating, hostile, or offensive working environment.”

There is a related variant, retaliation for complaining about sexual harassment, that also gives rise to a cause of action but which must be separately pleaded and proven.  That is why a victim of sexual harassment or retaliation should consult with an experienced employment law litigator before framing the particular allegations of a lawsuit.  At trial, you will be held to the allegations of your Complaint and limited to presenting only evidence in support of your claims.  Thus, if you plead quid pro quo, you may not be able to prove hostile work environment, or vice versa.

The employment law attorneys in the Westport, Connecticut office of Maya Murphy, P.C. have extensive experience in the negotiation and litigation of all sorts of employment-related disputes and assist clients from Greenwich, Stamford, New Canaan, Darien, Norwalk, Westport and Fairfield in resolving such issues.  Please contact our Westport office at 203-221-3100.

What Is a Constructive Discharge?

Hopefully, you have never been fired—that is a discharge or termination.  Sometimes, however, an employee has no reasonable alternative to quitting—that is a constructive discharge.  The involuntary nature of the employee’s “quit” may enable him or her to claim the constructive discharge as an adverse employment action so as to maintain a claim for employment discrimination.  An employee’s reasonable decision to resign because of unendurable working conditions is, for remedial purposes, equated to a formal discharge.

A constructive discharge occurs when an employer indirectly, but deliberately, makes an employee’s working conditions so intolerable that the employee is forced involuntarily to resign.  The key points of inquiry are the employer’s intentional conduct and the intolerable level of the employee’s working conditions.  The standard for evaluation is objective–how would a reasonable employee behave in the particular employee’s shoes?  Subjective feelings as to the intolerable nature of the employee’s position cannot support a finding of constructive discharge.

In assessing a claim of constructive discharge, individual factors, standing alone, may be insufficient to carry the day.  For this reason, the pertinent conditions are aggregated since a reasonable person encounters life’s circumstances cumulatively rather than individually.  Some routine workplace events— e.g. a poor performance appraisal, lack of training, or increased job demands—are to be expected and do not support an inference that a reasonable person would be “compelled” to resign.  The standard for constructive discharge goes beyond difficult or unpleasant working conditions.

As is so often the case in employment law, the presence of a constructive discharge depends upon the circumstances of the particular employee involved.  If you feel that your employer deliberately made your work environment intolerable and that you were forced to quit, you should confer with a seasoned employment law litigator to determine your rights.

The employment law attorneys in the Westport, Connecticut office of Maya Murphy, P.C. have extensive experience in the negotiation and litigation of all sorts of employment-related disputes and assist clients from Greenwich, Stamford, New Canaan, Darien, Norwalk, Westport and Fairfield in resolving such issues. Please contact our offices at 203-221-3100.

What Is a Constructive Discharge?

Hopefully, you have never been fired—that is a discharge or termination.  Sometimes, however, an employee has no reasonable alternative to quitting—that is a constructive discharge.  The involuntary nature of the employee’s “quit” may enable him or her to claim the constructive discharge as an adverse employment action so as to maintain a claim for employment discrimination.  An employee’s reasonable decision to resign because of unendurable working conditions is, for remedial purposes, equated to a formal discharge.

A constructive discharge occurs when an employer indirectly, but deliberately, makes an employee’s working conditions so intolerable that the employee is forced involuntarily to resign.  The key points of inquiry are the employer’s intentional conduct and the intolerable level of the employee’s working conditions.  The standard for evaluation is objective–how would a reasonable employee behave in the particular employee’s shoes?  Subjective feelings as to the intolerable nature of the employee’s position cannot support a finding of constructive discharge.

In assessing a claim of constructive discharge, individual factors, standing alone, may be insufficient to carry the day.  For this reason, the pertinent conditions are aggregated since a reasonable person encounters life’s circumstances cumulatively rather than individually.  Some routine workplace events— e.g. a poor performance appraisal, lack of training, or increased job demands—are to be expected and do not support an inference that a reasonable person would be “compelled” to resign.  The standard for constructive discharge goes beyond difficult or unpleasant working conditions.

As is so often the case in employment law, the presence of a constructive discharge depends upon the circumstances of the particular employee involved.  If you feel that your employer deliberately made your work environment intolerable and that you were forced to quit, you should confer with a seasoned employment law litigator to determine your rights.

The employment law attorneys in the Westport, Connecticut office of Maya Murphy, P.C. have extensive experience in the negotiation and litigation of all sorts of employment-related disputes and assist clients from Greenwich, Stamford, New Canaan, Darien, Norwalk, Westport and Fairfield in resolving such issues. Please contact our offices at 203-221-3100.

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.