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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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ECBA Files Class Action Challenging Over-detentions of People Entitled to Release on Bail from New York City Jails

On October 4, 2017, ECBA and co-counsel Romano & Kuan PLLC filed a federal class action lawsuit on behalf of presumptively innocent criminal defendants held for hours or days in New York City jails despite being entitled to release on bail. The complaint alleges that the City has been deliberately indifferent to the problem of unreasonable systemic delays in accepting bail payments and in processing detainees for release once bail is posted. The suit details a Kafka-esque system where antiquated technology, inadequate staffing, and indifference conspire to keep thousands of New Yorkers each year in jail for hours or days without any legal basis.

To read the complaint, click here.

To read coverage of the lawsuit in the New York Daily News, click here.

ECBA’s Matt Brinckerhoff , Debbie Greenberger, and David Lebowitz, along with Julia Kuan of Romano and Kuan, represent the plaintiffs.

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Eleven 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, Elizabeth Saylor, and Debbie Greenberger 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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ECBA Negotiates Largest Fair Housing Justice Center Settlement For Discrimination Case

On behalf of their clients the Fair Housing Justice Center (FHJC) and three African American testers, ECBA attorneys Diane L. Houk and Alanna Kaufman negotiated the largest settlement that FHJC has ever obtained in the private rental market for a race, color, and source of income discrimination case. The lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, alleged that Defendants Kosova Properties, Inc., Mulliner & Properties, Inc., Burr Properties LLC, Dardania Properties LLC, Nezaj Realty LLC, and Hamdi Nezaj were discriminating on the basis of race, color, and source of income. Kosova Properties manages nineteen buildings with more than 350 rental units in the Bronx and Manhattan.

The case settled for $620,000 plus extensive injunctive relief for FHJC, three African American testers, and one home-seeker represented by Mobilization for Justice.

See more 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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Andrew Wilson Selected to Serve as Co-Chair of the American Bar Association’s Civil Rights Litigation Committee

Andrew Wilson has been selected to serve as Co-Chair of the Civil Rights Litigation Committee for the American Bar Association.  With more than 400,000 members, the American Bar Association is one of the largest voluntary professional membership organizations in the world. As the national voice of the legal profession, the ABA works to improve the administration of justice, promotes programs that assist lawyers and judges in their work, accredits law schools, provides continuing legal education, and works to build public understanding around the world of the importance of the rule of law. The latest ABA news can be found at www.americanbar.org/news and on Twitter @ABANews.

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Jewish Woman Settles Religious Discrimination Lawsuit With Lucille Roberts

School teacher Yosefa Wood-Isenberg (formerly Yosefa Jalal) has settled her discrimination lawsuit against the health club chain, Lucille Roberts, in Manhattan federal court. Lucille Roberts employees had targeted, harassed, screamed at, and banned Ms. Wood-Isenberg, all because she wore a modest, fitted, knee-length skirt.

The settlement reinstates Ms. Wood-Isenberg’s membership in the gym, permits her to wear a fitted skirt at the gym, and formalizes a new policy permitting gymgoers to wear fitted skirts for religious reasons. The settlement also includes a confidential monetary payment.

“I am so thankful that I and other Jewish women can work out in a facility without compromising our religious beliefs,” said Ms. Wood-Isenberg. “This is a joyous win for women who dress modestly. I thank G-d, our legal team, and all who supported us along the way.”

“This is an important victory for religious freedom,” said Ilann M. Maazel, counsel for Ms. Wood-Isenberg.  “Observant Jewish women should be able to work out at a gym like anyone else, and now, at Lucille Roberts they can. We applaud Lucille Roberts for doing the right thing.”

“Whether you wear a long skirt, a hijab, or a t-shirt promoting atheism, places of public accommodation are for you. We encourage others to join Lucille Roberts in embracing this core American principle.” said Doug Lieb, another lawyer for Ms. Wood-Isenberg.

Read the settlement and the federal complaint. Read coverage of the settlement in the New York Post,  New York Daily News, Courthouse News Service, and Connecticut Jewish Ledger.

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Second Circuit Affirms Subpoena in Worldwide Art Dispute

A federal appellate court has upheld ECBA’s clients’ request to obtain discovery in aid of foreign proceedings under 28 U.S.C. s. 1782. In a victory that further defines the contours of the statute, the decision holds for the first time in the Second Circuit that (1) a victim complainant can obtain documents for use in a foreign criminal prosecution, regardless of whether the victim is seeking reparations; and (2) documents obtained for use in one foreign proceeding may be used in other foreign proceedings, absent a contrary court order from the 1782 court. The applicants were represented by ECBA attorneys Dan Kornstein, O. Andrew F. Wilson, and Doug Lieb.

A full copy of the decision can be found here.

Read more about the underlying dispute in a profile published in the New Yorker.

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ECBA Urges State Department To Seek Justice for Bakari Henderson

ECBA urged the U.S. State Department to “deploy all necessary resources and undertake every effort” to seek justice for Bakari Henderson, a 22-year-old African-American U.S. citizen brutally beaten to death in Greece in July.

On the night of July 7, 2017, a group of men chased Bakari from a bar in Zakynthos, Greece, and savagely beat him in the street.  Their motives are not yet known.  Bakari died of the severe head injuries he sustained.  Nine men have been arrested.

Bakari was a recent graduate of the Eller College of Management at the University of Arizona.  At the time of his death, he was in Greece working on a new clothing line he was developing.  He had interned for the Texas House of Representatives and State Senate, which honored him after his death.  Bakari’s family and friends remember him as a leader with a voice of reason who was fun-loving, peaceful, and calm.  The Henderson family has created the Travel with Bakari initiative to honor his legacy as a compassionate, friendly, inquisitive, intelligent young man.

ECBA represents Bakari’s parents, Phil and Jill Henderson.  On behalf of the Henderson family, ECBA urged the State Department to “take all available measures to help ensure the impartiality and thoroughness” of the Greek authorities’ investigation into Bakari’s death.  The letter seeks accountability for “all those who bear responsibility for Bakari’s death” and demands that the investigation “fully explore the attackers’ motives, including any potential bias or hatred.”

ECBA attorneys Jonathan S. Abady, Earl S. Ward, and Doug Lieb represent the Henderson family.  To read the letter, click here.

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