ECBA won a landmark ruling allowing a case for rape to proceed under New York City’s Victims of Gender Motivated Violence Protection Act. Justice Robert R. Reed denied the defendant’s motion to dismiss the case, holding that the complaint properly alleged all the elements of the claim.
The New York City Council passed the Act in 2000 to create a private right of action for victims of “gender motivated crimes of violence” like sexual assault and rape to sue their abusers in civil court. The Act also extends the statute of limitations to bring such cases to 7 years. Justice Reed’s ruling gives real meaning to the City’s Act and makes it a powerful and much needed tool for victims of sexual misconduct to seek justice in the courts.
The case is Breest v. Haggis, No. 161137/2017 (N.Y. Sup. Ct.).
ECBA attorneys Jonathan S. Abady, Ilann M. Maazel, and Zoe Salzman represent the plaintiff.
Read more about the case here, here, here, and here.
ECBA filed a complaint with New York City’s Human Rights Commission on behalf of Hairo Olivares, an Upper West Side porter at 315 Riverside Drive, alleging years of sexual harassment by the building superintendent and manager. The complaint alleges, among other things, that the superintendent grabbed Mr. Olivares’s crotch and buttocks and made him an ongoing target of harassment and humiliation. ECBA’s Ilann M. Maazel and Emma L. Freeman represent Mr. Olivares.
To learn more, read coverage from the NY Daily News here.
The firm’s client LaDonna Powell was profiled in this week’s This American Life. To listen, click here. LaDonna and many others were sexually harassed while working at JFK for Allied security. The podcast describes in detail how she fought back against this harassment. Elizabeth Saylor, Alanna Kaufman, and David Lebowitz represent Ms. Powell and three other Allied employers who were discriminated against. To read the amended complaint, click here.
On May 29, 2018, ECBA filed a charge of discrimination with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission on behalf of Patricia Gunning, a former Special Prosecutor/Inspector General at the NYS Justice Center for the Protection of People with Special Needs. In the charge, Ms. Gunning alleges that James Kiyonaga, who served as Acting Executive Director and Executive Deputy Director during her years at the Justice Center, engaged in a pattern of sexual discrimination and sexual favoritism, creating a hostile work environment. The charge alleges that when Ms. Gunning complained about the abuse, she was retaliated against, leading to her termination. Mr. Kiyonaga currently serves at Executive Deputy Commissioner of the Office of People with Developmental Disabilites.
For more information, read coverage from the New York Post, Times Union, and NY Daily News.
Patricia Gunning is represented by Richard D. Emery, Ilann M. Maazel, and Debra Greenberger.
“O.W. Holmes Jr. and #MeToo”
ECBA Partner and New York Law Journal occasional essayist Daniel J. Kornstein writes: “Holmes should be a hero, as yet unsung, of the #MeToo movement. He is sensitive and aware of the embarrassment and shame felt by a victim of sexual assault. He provides new support for any victim criticized for not reporting an incident sooner. Holmes’s comments should be cited in any brief on the point.”
ECBA partner Zoe Salzman moderated a panel hosted by the Center for Labor and Employment Law at NYU School of Law on “Avoiding the Next Harvey Weinstein: Sexual Harassment and Non-Disclosure Agreements.”
On December 6, 2017, ECBA attorney Alanna Kaufman testified at the New York City Commission on Human Rights Hearing on Sexual Harassment in the Workplace. In her testimony, she urged the Commission to continue to “create legal forums where women feel comfortable and safe coming forward” in instances of harassment and discrimination. Alanna described the harrowing experience of ECBA client LaDonna Powell, a victim of workplace sexual harassment and gender discrimination at Allied Security Services at John F. Kennedy International Airport. Alanna further explained: “What happened to LaDonna is the same thing that happens to countless women every day in industries that are not bathed in media light.”
To view the public hearing and Alanna’s testimony, click here. Alanna’s testimony begins at 2:39:00.
To view the written testimony, click here.
To view LaDonna Powell’s federal discrimination and sexual harassment complaint, click here.
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.
ECBA partner Zoe Salzman was quoted in a New York Post article on the proliferation of sexual harassment cases across different industries in the wake of the Harvey Weinstein scandal.
The article explains how: “Women are incredibly afraid to come forward,” said attorney Zoe Salzman, a partner at Emery Celli Brinckerhoff & Abady. “If it’s true of Hollywood actresses like Ashley Judd and Angelina Jolie, it has to be even more true for women who don’t have the financial and personal resources that actresses have. The restaurant industry, like a lot of industries, is marked by that same power dynamic.”
Still, Salzman sees a silver lining in the Weinstein downfall: “This case is inspiring so many women, even women who are in low-income jobs [will hopefully] feel that they too can stand up and speak out,” she said. “They know now that what is happening is illegal.”
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.