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.
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.
ECBA filed a sexual harassment complaint with the New York City Commission on Human Rights today on behalf of a woman named Veronica McILraith against her employer, the legal recruiting firm Wegman Partners LLC, as well as the firm’s CEO Colby Wegman and Chairman of Partner Recruiting, Scott Legg.
According to the complaint, Ms. McILraith was “subjected to an astounding barrage of groping and sexually explicit and derogatory comments, texts, emails, and signs by her boss.” When she complained, the company sided with the harasser, cut Ms. McILraith’s commissions, and forced her out.
Ms. McILraith filed suit in the New York City Commission on Human Rights notwithstanding Wegman’s attempt to force her into arbitration. The Commission is a powerful body that investigates complaints of discrimination and harassment in New York City. It can award individual damages and attorneys’ fees to the victims just like a court.
“No woman should have to experience this sort of disgusting sexual harassment at work,” said ECBA partner Zoe Salzman, Ms. McILraith’s attorney. “Ms. McILraith is standing up and saying this sort of behavior has to stop. Other women are standing up. And more will follow.”
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.
Legal Services NYC, with support and additional counsel from ECBA’s Matthew Brinckerhoff, has reached a settlement with the NYPD in Padilla-Torres v. City of New York, a 2013 federal discrimination lawsuit alleging that the civil rights of domestic violence survivors with limited English proficiency had been violated by denying them interpreters. As part of the settlement, the NYPD has agreed to equip all officers in the field with smartphones that can interpret over 240 languages. Additionally, over the next 18 months, the NYPD will provide its officers with training on how to use this smartphone application and when to recognize that an interpreter is necessary.
The plaintiffs in the case were denied safety and interpreters after being attacked by their partners. In response to calls of domestic abuse, officers would often let the abusers speak on behalf of their victims. In some of the more egregious instances, this would result in the arrest of the victims themselves, as was the case for Arlet Macareno, one of the plaintiffs. After being pushed down a flight of stairs by her husband, the police arrived at Ms. Macareno’s home without a Spanish interpreter. Ms. Macareno tried to explain that she was the victim of her husband’s aggression, but instead of arresting him, the officers arrested Ms. Macareno and charged her with obstruction of justice. This settlement will provide NYPD officers with the resources to ensure that no New Yorker is subjected to the same injustices as Ms. Macareno.
ECBA has filed a federal lawsuit in Albany on behalf of a disabled woman raped by a fellow resident at a New York State group home. The suit, against four employees of the New York State Office for People With Developmental Disabilities, alleges that staff turned a blind eye to the disabled woman’s prior complaints of sexual abuse and failed to take basic steps to protect her. The suit seeks compensatory and punitive damages. ECBA attorneys Ilann M. Maazel, Diane Houk, and Sam Shapiro filed the suit.