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ECBA Files Notice of Intent to Sue Police Officers Who Shot and Killed Osaze Osagie

ECBA, along with co-counsel, filed a Notice of Claim today on behalf of Sylvester and Iyunolu Osagie, the parents of 29-year-old Osaze Osagie, indicating their intent to sue the Pennsylvania State College Police Department (“SCPD”) and the officers who six months ago shot and killed their then 29-year old son. Sylvester Osagie asked the police to help him find Osaze, so that he could secure treatment for his suicidal son who was suffering a serious mental health crisis. Instead of helping Osaze, an officer shot him three times in the back, killing him.

“The mental health processes in place failed our son. The police procedures also failed our son. And the officers who responded to our son’s apartment failed him as well. We are bringing this case to make sure Osaze is the last person to die under such circumstances,” said Sylvester Osagie.

“Osaze would still be alive today if the police had followed standard procedures for handling mental health emergencies. This tragic loss of life didn’t have to happen; Osaze Osagie did not have to die.” said ECBA partner Andrew G. Celli, Jr.

Read the press release and coverage of the filing here, here, here and here.

ECBA partners Andrew G. Celli, Jr. and Elizabeth Saylor represent the family along with Pennsylvania lawyers Andrew Shubin and Kathleen Yurchak.

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Black Intelligence Detectives Settle Bias Suit for $974,000

ECBA settled a suit on behalf of three black detectives who were denied promotions within the elite Intelligence Division of the NYPD. The City will pay $700,000 in damages to the detectives, as well as $374,000 in attorneys’ fees. For well over a decade, the Intelligence Division maintained a subjective promotions policy, administered by white supervisors, who refused to promote deserving black detectives. The three detectives 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.

The settlement was reported in numerous papers, including the New York Daily News. The detectives’ experiences were also covered in an article on the New York Times’ front page, which led to a Times’ editorial. ABC, Spectrum NY1, the New York Daily News, and the New York Post also previously covered the case. The key case documents are available at the following links: federal complaint, EEOC charge, EEOC finding of probable cause of discrimination, and the U.S. Department of Justice’s Right to Sue letter.

ECBA’s Elizabeth SaylorEarl Ward, Jessica Clarke, and Doug Lieb, 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 and A Better Balance Client Successfully Resolve Her Gender Discrimination Claim Against MOMA PS1

Nikki Columbus, who sued MoMA PS1 in the New York City Human Rights Commission for revoking her job offer after learning she had just had a baby, settled her claims with PS1, in an agreement requiring PS1 to pay Ms. Columbus a financial award and to update its written policies to protect women and caregivers. “What happened to me was wrong and clearly against the law,” Ms. Columbus said in a statement. “I decided to speak out in order to protect other women at MoMA PS1 and beyond.”

The New York Times covered her lawsuit and the settlement. Read more press coverage of the case here.

Ms. Columbus was represented by A Better Balance and ECBA lawyers Elizabeth Saylor, Katherine Rosenfeld, Andrew Wilson, and Ali Frick.

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Ten ECBA Attorneys Named as Super Lawyers; Two Named as Rising Stars

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 2018. Partners Zoe Salzman and Sam Shapiro were named as Rising Stars. The Super Lawyers list is issued by Thompson Reuters. A description of the selection methodology can be found here.

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Harlem Black Business Owner Arrested for Being a Business Owner While Black

The law firm of Emery Celli Brinkerhoff & Abady LLP (ECBA) yesterday evening filed a federal lawsuit on behalf of three black men who are among the many black New Yorkers and black Americans arrested for simply doing the normal things that normal people do—driving a car down the street, having a barbecue, or, in this case, doing one’s job.

Plaintiff Dr. Clyde Pemberton is the CEO of the corporation that owns MIST Harlem (https://mistharlem.com/), a restaurant and entertainment venue. The complaint alleges that Dr. Pemberton and two MIST employees were arrested on June 1, 2017 simply because they are black. Dr. Pemberton went to aid a white woman who was unconscious and being dragged through MIST by her two white friends. The ill woman’s friends screamed racial epithets at him and attacked him. MIST employees called 911 for an ambulance. When the paramedics and the police arrived, Dr. Pemberton and two MIST employees were arrested for allegedly falsely imprisoning the ill woman. The police never interviewed them before arresting them.

Plaintiff’s attorney, Elizabeth S. Saylor said, “It is time for the NYPD to be held accountable. The NYPD must stop reflexively defending its officers without even conducting an investigation. The NYPD must take real action to stamp out discrimination by holding accountable those officers who violate citizens’ constitutional rights.”

Despite having done nothing but express concern for a patron in danger, suffer an unprovoked racist attack, and try to deescalate a volatile situation, Dr. Pemberton and two other MIST employees were arrested, held at a police station overnight, and forced to go to court to fight charges for several months, before the district attorney finally dismissed the charges.

“This is exactly the kind of interaction that destroys trust in law enforcement in minority communities,” said Ms. Saylor. This incident has left Plaintiffs deeply shaken. They had not previously known the fear, the disrespect, or the pain of being the victims of arbitrary and heavy-handed conduct by the police. Dr. Pemberton had even previously worked with the police. He ran a Harlem-based community mental health center, performed psychological evaluations for the NYPD, and served as a psychiatric consultant to the Newark Police Department. “This lawsuit seeks to remedy the injustice perpetrated by the NYPD,” said Ms. Saylor.

Read coverage of the case in The New York TimesNew York Daily News, New York Post, New York Law Journal, Hip Hop Wired, and The Grio. The complaint is available here.

The three plaintiffs are represented by Elizabeth Saylor and Doug Lieb.

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MoMA PS1 Refuses to Hire Curator After Learning She Recently Had a Baby

On July 5, 2018, ECBA filed a complaint with the New York City Human Rights Commission alleging that MoMA PS1 refused to hire a curator after learning she had recently had a baby. Over a period of several months, Peter Eleey and Klaus Biesenbach, Chief Curator and Director, respectively, of PS1 recruited Nikki Columbus to join PS1 as associate curator of performance. After several discussions about the job, they officially offered her the position. But when Ms. Columbus mentioned that she had recently had a baby, Eleey immediately demanded to know why she hadn’t said earlier that she was pregnant. Shortly thereafter, PS1 rescinded the job offer. Represented by ECBA attorneys Elizabeth Saylor and Ali Frick, Ms. Columbus filed a complaint claiming that PS1’s conduct amounted to discrimination on the basis of her status as a caregiver, her gender, and her pregnancy. “This is the thing about discrimination,” Ms. Columbus told the New York Times. “And coming into this from a privileged position — you don’t think it’s going to happen to you.”

Read the New York Times’ coverage here. Read the complaint here.

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ECBA Client LaDonna Powell Profiled on This American Life

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 largest security company in the country. The podcast describes in detail how she fought back against this harassment. To read the amended complaint, click here.

The case was previously covered in numerous other newspapers including the New York Daily News.  WNBC’s I-Team also covered the case on October 10, 2017 and broadcast a followup story on November 21, 2017. To view the press release, click here.

Elizabeth Saylor, Alanna Kaufman, and David Lebowitz represent Ms. Powell and three other Allied employers who were discriminated against.

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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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