Articles Posted in Sexual Harassment

Two recent court decisions in high profile sexual harassment cases show just how seriously the system takes this crime and demonstrates clearly to victims of office wrongdoing that they’re not alone and that they have recourse. Violations of basic human dignity should not be tolerated, and the legal system, when leveraged effectively, can get bad behaviors to stop and compel fair compensation for mistreatment.

The two cases below illustrate how victims can prevail in court, even when predators are powerful – e.g. a high ranking city official and a well known sports network.

Detroit Councilman’s Unacceptable Behavior Leads to 6 Figure Award

Sometimes people dream up solutions to serious problems that are so bizarre, they literally take your breath away. To wit, in England, a socialist Member of Parliament recently suggested that in order to solve the problems of sexual harassment and assault on public transportation, trains should have separate cars that are only for women.

The immediate reaction from the pundit class was, unsurprisingly, outrage, with critics calling the idea “old-fashioned sexism” and a form of “apartheid.” One activist compared it to the time when a local mass murderer had been killing women, and one politician suggested that all women should stay home to avoid danger.

Women shouldn’t have to restrict or change their movements when criminals violate laws. That clearly and obviously places the responsibility on the wrong party. The solution is to stop the illegal behavior – and/or to eliminate its root social, cultural and institutional causes — not to normalize it and compel would-be victims to change their behavior and restrict their movements. A saner strategy would involve enforcing laws against sexual assault and harassment and to deter men (and women) from violating them in the first place.

Architecture professor and CUNY Dean George Ranalli stands accused of sexual harassment, according to a recent report from the New York Post.

Ranalli, who taught for two decades at the Yale University School of Architecture prior to taking on the role of the Dean of the Bernard and Ann Spitzer School of Architecture for City College, allegedly harassed his office assistant, Ariella Campisi, after an office holiday party in December 2013.

According to Campisi’s story, her boss was driving her home from the party, when they got stuck in traffic on the Westside Highway, following festivities at the Smoke Jazz and Supper Club. Per the Post, the 68-year-old proceeded to rub her knee and thigh “in a sexual manner, right below where her skirt ended” and later asked his assistant: “you look so beautiful. Can I kiss you?”

Workplace sexual harassment cases in New York (and beyond) often appear pretty cut and dry to objective observers. For instance, a boss may make outrageous comments in the office or grab or grope an employee, sometimes to horrific effect.

That said, when it comes to more impersonal modes of communication, like text messaging, it can be more challenging to prove misconduct or wrongdoing. Was a weird comment or awkward picture harassment… or a glitch or typo?

Context is crucial. If your boss has a habit of ogling you at work, asking you out and making inappropriate comments about your boyfriend… and then he texts you a nasty picture or veiled sexual innuendo… such text messages could likely be considered evidence of harassing behavior.

Dennis Hastert, retired Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, is under investigation for sexual abuse against a former male student, which allegedly occurred at a school where Hastert worked as a teacher until 1981. The investigation was initiated after the FBI became suspicious of several large cash transactions involving Hastert and totaling $1.4 million. While this isn’t technically a sexual harassment case, we wanted to talk about this story for two reasons: 1) it’s a huge news item that has many people discussing just what is and what is not appropriate when it comes to conduct at work and at school; and 2) allegations of abuse or harassment at work often boil down to “he said, she said” type arguments, and this story illustrates the kind of polarization that such arguments can create.

Federal authorities levied charges against Hastert, whom they allege lied to the FBI about why he was making large cash withdrawals. According to the charges, the funds were being paid to the former student to keep the alleged abuse incidents secret.

The indictment also charges Hastert agreed to pay a total of $3.5 million to ensure the former student would not make the abuse public. Initially, Hastert withdrew $50,000 at a time to make payments, but after bank officials questioned the activity, he lowered the amount of each withdrawal to below $10,000. The large and consistent number of withdrawals attracted the attention of federal officials, who suspected Hastert was attempting to evade income reporting requirements.

Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane doesn’t intend to remove Chief of Staff Jonathan Duecker from his post, despite allegations by Deputy Attorney General Kathleen Kluk accusing Duecker of sexually harassing her. Duecker, who had headed the Bureau of Narcotics Investigation, was promoted to chief of staff in early May.

Kluk says Duecker ran his hand up the back of her shirt and touched her skin; she also alleges that he placed his hand on her thigh during a dinner with other narcotics bureau agents.

Kane’s communication adviser Chuck Ardo said Kane believes the claims are being made to undermine her, and he added that, after the incident, Duecker “went through his chain of command to request they look into it. The chain of command looked into it and felt no further action was warranted.”
Ardo added that it’s unclear whether an investigation was ever initiated under the attorney general’s Office of Professional Responsibility, the attorney general’s version of an internal affairs unit.

A lawsuit recently filed in Manhattan Federal Court alleges that executives at CBS committed sexual harassment. The lawsuit, filed by celebrity reporter Ken Lombardi, describes an ongoing climate of harassment at the CBS office, where the 29 year old reporter worked for several years.

The story serves as a powerful reminder that the victims of sexual harassment need not always be women.

Documents filed in the suit allege that, at a 2013 holiday party, Duane Tollison, a senior producer and Lombardi’s boss at the time, “grabbed Lombardi’s crotch and kissed his neck.” Tollison followed up the following day with a written correspondence saying: “I wanted to apologize if anything I did offended you or crossed a line. I like to get a little crazy. If you weren’t offended, then let’s do it again. LOL How is your day so far? :)”

Our New York sexual harassment attorneys have been thinking a lot about the United Nations lately, in light of potent allegations made against a high ranking UN science official. Rajendra Pauchari recently resigned as the Chair of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) after serving in the position since 2002. The surprising move — his full term would have expired in October of this year — comes on the coattails of allegations that Pauchari had sexually harassed colleagues.

The first allegation came from a 29-year-old employee at Pauchari’s Energy and Resources Institute (TERI). The woman alleges that he sent inappropriate messages to her through a number of mediums. Pauchari stepped down from his post at TERI following the allegations. A second, more recent allegation led to his resignation from the IPCC at the end of February. The second woman’s lawyer describes Pauchari’s harassment against many women.

Pauchari has faced calls for his resignation in the past, due to inaccuracies in climate reports; and in 2010, reporters from The Telegraph questioned Pauchari’s financial relationship with the UN.

Alexandra Marchuk recently sued her former law firm, Faruqi & Faruqi, and one of its partners, Juan Monteverde, for sexual harassment, alleging that she had been assaulted and subjected to a hostile workplace environment. Her case went to trial on January 12, and the jury reached a verdict on Thursday, February 5, after just a 24-hour deliberation.

The jury did not grant Marchuk’s request for $2 million in damages. Instead, jurors awarded her $90,000 in compensation and lost pay and $50,000 in punitive damages for employment discrimination. Notably, the jury did not award damages for emotional distress or discrimination under federal law.

Win, Lose or Draw?

Our New York employment attorneys have been fascinated by the implications of a political appointment in neighboring Pennsylvania. The state’s new governor, Tom Wolf, a self-identified progressive, has nominated a transgender woman, Dr. Rachel Levine, to be the state’s Physician General. Dr. Levine has identified herself as a woman for 5 years.

Dr. Levine recently spoke with reporters at the Washington Blade about her career. Administrators at Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center have been supportive of her transition; and the hospital has established clear and effective policies to prevent discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender expression.

As Physician General for Pennsylvania, Dr. Levine will oversee critical health initiatives and policy work for the state as well as continue her work as a private physician. She’ll serve in an advisory capacity for the Secretary of the Department of Health and for the governor. At Milton S. Hershey Medical Center, Dr. Levine serves as the chief of the Division of Adolescent Medicine and Eating Disorders and the vice chairwoman for Clinical Affairs for the Department of Pediatrics.