Sexual harassment is a serious problem in many New York City workplaces. Like other forms of employment discrimination, sexual harassment often reflects a certain institutional or managerial culture. That is to say, even managers who do not directly engage in harassment may encourage it by failing to take action against the responsible parties. This, in turn, can lead to significant legal liability for the business as a whole.
Employer Dismissed Sexual Harassment Complaints as Supervisor Being “Playful”
For example, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) recently announced a $150,000 settlement against a Bronx-based company over allegations it allowed a supervisor at one of its locations to regularly commit sexual harassment against female employees. Although the employer did not admit to the EEOC's charges, the settlement nevertheless obligates the company to pay damages to the alleged victims of the sexual harassment and take additional actions to ensure such activities are not tolerated in the future.
According to the EEOC's original lawsuit, filed last August in Manhattan federal court, the defendant employer hired the supervisor in question in the summer of 2016. Shortly thereafter, the EEOC said the supervisor “routinely treated female employees … in a hostile and abusive manner.” This included, but was not limited to, engaging in “swearing at and belittling female subordinates and ridiculing their work–conduct [the supervisor] did not similarly direct at his male subordinates.”
The EEOC said the supervisor also engaged in “unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature” toward female subordinates, notably commenting on their “bodies and clothing,” as well as “ogling women in the office, and making repeated and unwelcome sexual advances.”
More to the point, the EEOC said that the employer itself was “aware” of the supervisor's harassment due to employees filing complaints. Yet the employer “failed to take prompt, reasonable corrective action to stop the harassment.” In fact, one executive dismissed the supervisor's behavior as simply “playful.”
Unfortunately for the employer, that is not how the EEOC saw things. It was, according to the agency, a textbook case of sexual harassment. As the director of the EEOC's New York office said in reference to the March settlement, “The EEOC will continue to ensure that employers take this kind of abuse seriously – and employee complaints about it.”
The settlement itself requires the employer to pay damages to individual employees affected by the supervisor's prior acts of sexual harassment. The employer must also “distribute anti-discrimination policies to employees” and provide appropriate anti-sexual harassment training. The employer also agreed to report any future complaints of employment discrimination directly to the EEOC.
Speak with a New York City Sexual Harassment Lawyer Today
EEOC actions are just one way to hold New York employers accountable for sexual harassment. Individual employees may also file their own lawsuits under certain conditions. To learn more, contact the New York City employment lawyers at the Nisar Law Group, P.C., today to schedule a free consultation.