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ECBA Files Employment Discrimination Complaint on Behalf of Former World Trade Center Security Guard

On November 16, 2017, ECBA filed a charge of discrimination with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission on behalf of Nicole Johnson, a former security professional for Allied Universal Security Services at the World Trade Center in downtown Manhattan. Allied, one of the nation’s largest security firms, contracts with the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey to provide security services at sensitive locations including the World Trade Center and area airports.

The complaint alleges that, during her time at Allied, Ms. Johnson was subjected to a campaign of sexual harassment by a supervisor that was facilitated by Allied human resources workers who failed to act on her repeated complaints and instead disseminated rumors about her to her co-workers. As the harassment escalated, Ms. Johnson was the victim of groping, unwanted sexual touching, and a barrage of obscene and degrading comments. Ultimately, she was fired for pretextual reasons in retaliation for complaining about the culture of harassment at Allied.
ECBA also represents LaDonna Powell, a former security supervisor at JFK airport who has sued Allied for sexual harassment and violations of wage and hour laws.

WNBC’s I-Team, which previously covered Ms. Powell’s case, broadcast a followup story on Ms. Johnson’s complaint on November 21, 2017.

 

ECBA’s Elizabeth Saylor, David Lebowitz, and Alanna Kaufman represent Ms. Powell and Ms. Johnson.

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ECBA Attorneys Published in The New York Times, “Another Venue for Sexual Harassment Claims”

Zoe Salzman, Elizabeth Saylor, and Alanna Kaufman‘s Letter to the Editor, “Another Venue for Sexual Harassment Claims,” was published in The New York Times  on October 31, 2017. In the letter, the attorneys advise victims of workplace sexual harassment to speak out and bring their case to the  New York City Commission on Human Rights.  To read The New York Times  article, click here. Salzman, Saylor, and Kaufman specialize in the representation of victims of sexual harassment.

 

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Former Security Supervisor at JFK Sues for Sexual Harassment and Discrimination

On October 10, 2017, ECBA filed a federal discrimination and sexual harassment complaint on behalf of LaDonna Powell, a 32-year-old black woman formerly employed as a supervisor for Allied Universal Security Services (Allied) at John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK).  Allied, one of the nation’s largest security firms, contracts with the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey to provide security services at JFK.

The lawsuit alleges that, during her four-year employment at Allied, Powell was the victim of a workplace culture dominated by sex, harassment, and abuse of female and black employees.  It alleges that Powell was forced to watch live and recorded videos of her colleagues engaging in sex acts, solicited by her supervisors for sex, and subjected to countless incidents of lewd comments and inappropriate touching.  It further alleges that Powell reported the conduct to Allied supervisors and managers, who fired her in response to her complaints.

“This was not an isolated incident of workplace harassment,” said Elizabeth Saylor, a partner at ECBA and counsel for Powell.  “This was a campaign of harassment, discrimination, and retaliation led by Allied’s top management at JFK.  And Ms. Powell was not the only victim—we’ve spoken to multiple women who say they’ve experienced the same hazing and abuse.”

Although Powell’s complaints were disregarded by Allied at the time, she hopes that her lawsuit will motivate the company to make necessary changes to its discriminatory workplace culture.

NBC’s I-Team covered the case on October 10, 2017:

To read coverage from the Daily News click here.

To view the complaint, click here.

To view the press release, click here.

ECBA’s Elizabeth Saylor and Alanna Kaufman represent the plaintiff.

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Ten ECBA Attorneys Named as Super Lawyers; One Named as Rising Star

ECBA is proud to announce that partners Richard Emery, Andrew Celli, Matthew Brinckerhoff, Jonathan Abady, Ilann Maazel, Earl Ward, Hal Lieberman, Dan Kornstein, Andrew Wilson, and Elizabeth Saylor were named as Super Lawyers for 2017. Associate Alanna Kaufman was named as a Rising Star. The Super Lawyers list is issued by Thompson Reuters. A description of the selection methodology can be found here.

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Black Intelligence Detectives Bring Federal Suit Over Bias in NYPD Promotions

September 25, 2017 ­­– The law firm of Emery Celli Brinkerhoff & Abady LLP (ECBA) and the New York Civil Liberties Union today filed a federal class action lawsuit on behalf of black detectives who were denied promotions for years within the elite Intelligence Division of the NYPD. For well over a decade the division has maintained a subjective promotions policy, administered by white supervisors, who refuse to promote deserving black detectives.

“Minority communities have for decades distrusted the NYPD, and for good reason,” said Elizabeth Saylor, a partner at ECBA and lead counsel for the plaintiffs. “Pervasive discrimination against black detectives only deepens that distrust. The NYPD’s discriminatory culture needs to change.”

The lead plaintiffs in the case are Jon McCollum and Roland Stephens, as well as Sara Coleman, widow of Theodore Coleman. The three detectives each joined the Intelligence Division in 2001 and assisted with the cleanup and investigation of the September 11 attacks. They tracked hundreds of leads and suspects. In spite of their achievements and strong recommendations from their direct supervisors, they were repeatedly passed up for promotion because of their race.

Read the EEOC charge here,  and the EEOC finding here. Also, read the DOJ Right to Sue letter here, the federal complaint here, and a press release here.

To read recent coverage of these detectives’ experiences in NYPD Intel, click here for a news article by New York Times, here for an editorial by the Times, here for ABC, here for Spectrum NY1, here for the NY Daily News, and here for the NY Post.

ECBA’s Elizabeth SaylorEarl Ward, and Jessica Clarke, along with Chris Dunn with the NYCLU, represent Sara Coleman, the widow of Detective Theodore Coleman, and Detectives Jon McCollum and Roland Stephens.

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Billionaire Diller Drops Support for Pier 55 after ECBA Victory

Following ECBA’s victory in federal district court on behalf of clients the City Club of New York, Barry Diller (the billionaire backer) pulled his support for “Pier 55,” a proposed island performance venue in the Hudson River in Manhattan. This victory ensures the preservation of the estuarine sanctuary of the Hudson River as the legislature intended.  The controversy could have been avoided if the Hudson River Park Trust had been candid with the Legislature and the public and done a full participatory environmental review. When an agency flouts the law by cutting corners, public-spirited citizens can and should be able to get justice in court.  The real lesson of Diller Island is that the Hudson River Park Trust—like every agency that stewards precious public resources—should rededicate itself to core principles of openness, transparency, and conservation. The decision to end the project was covered by the New York Times and New York Daily News, among others.

ECBA lawyers Richard Emery, Elizabeth Saylor, Doug Lieb, and David Berman represent the City Club, as well as the other petitioners.   Read more about ECBA’s work on this project here, here, and here.

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NYCLU and ECBA Call for End to Investigation of Brooklyn Principal’s Political Speech

The New York Civil Liberties Union (NYCLU) and ECBA today urged the New York City Department of Education (DOE) in a letter to end its investigation into the free speech activities of the Park Slope Collegiate School principal Jill Bloomberg.  The DOE is investigating the principal, vice principal, two teachers, and an aid for allegedly being members of the Progressive Labor Party and for recruiting students to the PLP and to PLP events.  The principal alleges that the investigation is in retaliation for her repeated complaints to DOE about the discriminatory allocation of sports teams.  The letter explains that principals and teachers do not lose their right to free speech just because they work at a school.  Investigators have pulled students out of class to interrogate them without informing parents.  Students were asked whether their teachers were communists and were questioned about whether they or their parents had gone to political rallies or meetings.  “Investigating students’ and teachers’ political beliefs is offensive and unconstitutional, regardless of what those beliefs are,” said ECBA partner Elizabeth S. Saylor, who is representing the parents of a middle school student interrogated without parental consent. “This kind of knock-off McCarthyism is entirely inappropriate. The out-of-control investigation has made students afraid to speak out against segregation and inequality in their schools. This unconstitutional investigation must stop now.”

To read the letter, click here. To read New York Daily News coverage, click here.

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EEOC Finds NYPD Intel Division Discriminated Against Black Detectives; Sessions’ Justice Department Refuses to File Suit

On March 4, 2016, the EEOC determined that the Intelligence Division, one of the most elite and prestigious divisions within the NYPD, discriminates against African-American detectives. Specifically, it found that “black detectives in general, received lesser and later opportunities for promotion consistent with their qualifications.” Former Intel Detectives Jon McCollum, Roland Stephens, and Theodore Coleman, represented by ECBA and the NYCLU, initiated complaints with the EEOC that led to this determination. For five years, the EEOC reviewed data and interviewed countless witnesses before reaching this conclusion. The EEOC then transferred the case to Justice Department, which, under Jeff Sessions’ leadership, refused to file suit.

To read the New York Times’ recent coverage of these detectives’ experiences in NYPD Intel, click here.

ECBA’s Elizabeth Saylor, Earl Ward, Eisha Jain, and Jessica Clarke, along with Chris Dunn with the NYCLU, represent Sara Coleman, the widow of Detective Theodore Coleman, and Detectives Jon McCollum and Roland Stephens.

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ECBA Attorneys Finalists for 2017 Trial Lawyer of the Year Award

Public Justice has announced that the attorneys for Sykes v. Mel S. Harris & Associates, LLC are finalists for the organization’s 2017 Trial Lawyer of the Year Award.  ECBA co-counseled with MFY Legal Services and the New Economy Project to bring a federal class action challenging a fraudulent debt collection scheme.

Under the settlement negotiated by the legal team after six years of hard-fought litigation, the defendants paid nearly $60 million to class members.  They also agreed to exit the debt collection business and to extinguish all outstanding consumer debt that was part of the scheme, which had a total face value of over $1 billion. In a cutting edge component of the settlement, the defendants also agreed to cooperate with a supplementary state court proceeding to vacate the default judgments en masse and, as a result, nearly 200,000 fraudulently-obtained default judgments have been vacated. More on the case and the settlement is available here.

ECBA attorneys working on this case include Matthew Brinckerhoff, Debra Greenberger, Elizabeth Saylor, Jonathan Abady and Jessica Clarke.

More information on Public Justice’s Trial Lawyer of the Year Award can be found here.

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Federal Court Halts Construction on Pier 55

On behalf of clients The City Club of New York, Robert Buchanan, and Tom Fox, ECBA won a victory in federal district court against “Pier 55,” a proposed island performance venue in the Hudson River in Manhattan. The court ruled that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers was wrong to issue a permit for the project under the Clean Water Act because the project did not need to be built in a waterway to achieve its most important goals. Construction has now been halted. The court’s decision was covered by the New York Times, New York Daily News, and Curbed, among others. ECBA lawyers Richard Emery, Elizabeth Saylor, and Doug Lieb represent the City Club and the other petitioners. Read more about ECBA’s work on this project here and here.

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