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ECBA Partner Zoe Salzman Gives Tips for Victims of Employment Discrimination

Zoe Salzman, a partner at Emery Celli Brinckerhoff & Abady LLP who specializes in sexual harassment and employment discrimination, was recently interviewed by Super Lawyers magazine.

The article gives tips for what to do if you feel you have been harassed or discriminated against at work.  Ms. Salzman said: “Calling a lawyer as soon as it happened is going to give you the best understanding of whether you were wronged and, if you were, what your options are.”

Ms. Salzman was named as a Super Lawyers Rising Star in 2018.

Click here to read the full article.

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ECBA Wins Legal Victory in 200 Amsterdam Case: Court Orders Board of Standards and Appeals to Revisit Building Permit for Out-of-Scale 55-Story Tower

On March 14, 2019, Justice W. Franc Perry ruled in favor of firm clients, the Municipal Art Society of New York and the Committee for Environmentally Sound Development, in their ongoing action to halt the unlawful construction of a 668-foot residential mega-tower on a gerrymandered zoning lot at 200 Amsterdam Avenue, previously slated to be the tallest building on the Upper West Side.  The Court held that the building permit rested on an unreasonable interpretation of the Zoning Resolution that was inconsistent with a plain reading of the statute, and remanded the building permit back to the BSA for further review consistent with the Court’s order. The Court also rejected the argument of the developer, Amsterdam Avenue Redevelopment Associates LLC, that simply because DOB had issued the permit in the first place, it was therefore entitled to complete the building.  “Vested rights,” the Court wrote, “cannot be acquired by relying on an invalid permit.”

Read the decision here.

Read the coverage of the win here and here.

MAS and CFESD were represented in the proceeding by ECBA lawyers Katherine Rosenfeld, Richard D. Emery, and Ashok Chandran, and co-counsel Charles Weinstock, Esq.

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ECBA and A Better Balance Client Successfully Resolves 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.”

Ms. Columbus was represented by A Better Balance and ECBA lawyers Elizabeth Saylor, Katherine Rosenfeld, Andrew Wilson, and Ali Frick. The New York Times covered her lawsuit and the settlement.

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Federal Lawsuit Resolved Providing Housing Accessibility for Disabled Clients

ECBA attorneys and the Office of the United States Attorney General for the Southern District of New York negotiated a $525,000 settlement for disabled residents at a Mt. Kisco senior condominium building.  The settlement includes retrofits to common areas and individual units, as well as damages for ECBA’s five clients.  Retrofits have already been completed to make accessible the buildings’ front door, lobby doors on each floor at the elevator, and interior entrance to the garage.  Additional retrofits will be made to replace patio/balcony doors, correct slopes in the parking lot that are too steep, and modify other inaccessible features in the building.  The defendants, JOBCO, Bedford Development LLC, Carnegie Construction Corp., Robert Pascucci, and Warshauer Mellusi Warshauer Architects P.C., agreed to resolve ECBA’s clients’ claims after the filing of a federal lawsuit under the Fair Housing Act.  The Plaintiffs are represented by ECBA attorneys, Diane L. Houk and Jessica Clarke.

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Family Brutalized by U.S. Marshals in Justice Sotomayor Houses Files Federal Lawsuit

New York, NY – This morning, a single mother of two children living in Justice Sotomayor Houses in the Bronx, along with her brother and nine-year old daughter, filed a civil rights lawsuit in Manhattan federal court against the United States and sixteen United States Marshals. Without any basis, the Complaint alleges, the marshals punched, kicked and beat her brother, forced him to sit on a hot radiator, threatened to kill him, terrorized her 4- and 9-year old children, invaded her apartment without a warrant, and threatened to take away her benefits, her apartment, her children, and her freedom.

As alleged in the Complaint, the marshals said: “We can do whatever we want, we’re the feds.” “We don’t need a warrant.” “I should kill you right now.” “You’re lucky I don’t pull out my gun and shoot you.” “There are 7 of us, 1 of you. Who’s the judge going to believe?” “We’re the federal government – we can do whatever the fuck we want.”

After this terror, the marshals never arrested anyone in the family, and never apologized. Elva Rosa, the lead plaintiff, is an active member of her school’s PTA, and a supermarket cashier.

“These marshals acted like some sort of lawless gang. It’s appalling,” said Ilann M. Maazel, lead counsel, and a lawyer at Emery Celli Brinckerhoff & Abady. “Would this happen on Park Avenue?  Never. But in the Bronx, there is no justice even in the former residence of a Supreme Court Justice. This should never happen in America, anywhere.”

The marshals left the family fearful and traumatized. Even now, Ms. Rosa’s daughter prays the marshals won’t take her mom away, and her four-year old son pretends to hold a gun and says: “Marshal, put your fucking hands up!”

Ilann M. Maazel and David Lebowitz represent the family.  To read coverage in the N.Y. Daily News, click here. To read coverage in the New York Law Journal, click here.

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ECBA Attorneys Reach Historic Settlement to Reform Facebook’s Housing Advertising Platform

On March 18, 2019 ECBA attorneys announced a $2,450,000 settlement for clients the National Fair Housing Alliance (“NFHA”), the Fair Housing Justice Center (“FHJC”), Housing Opportunities Project for Excellence, Inc. (“HOPE”), and the Fair Housing Council of Greater San Antonio (“FHCGSA”) to settle housing discrimination claims against Facebook, Inc. (“Facebook”).  This agreement will implement far-reaching changes across Facebook’s advertising platform for housing, employment and credit (“HEC”) advertising.  In March, 2018 ECBA filed suit in federal district court alleging that Facebook had created pre-populated lists making it possible for housing advertisers to “exclude” (in Facebook terminology) Facebook users from receiving rental, sales or financing ads because of their race, national origin, sex, disability or family status.

The Facebook settlement sets a new benchmark for assuring that targeted advertising on social media complies with civil rights laws.  Facebook will establish a separate advertising portal for creating HEC ads on Facebook and all Facebook-owned platforms, including Instagram and Messenger.  On this new portal, HEC advertisers will not be able to target Facebook users (1) based on gender, age or multi-cultural affinity; (2) by zip code as all HEC ads must have a minimum geographic radius of 15 miles from a specific address or from the center of a city; and (3) based on categories that describe or appear to relate to personal characteristics or classes protected under federal, state, and local fair housing laws, including, race, color, national origin, gender, age, religion, family status, disability, and sexual orientation.

In addition, Facebook will create a new page which will allow consumers to view all housing ads placed on the Facebook platform irrespective of whether the consumer was part of the advertisers’ targeted audience.  NFHA will work with Facebook to develop an in-house fair housing training program for Facebook leadership and staff.  Facebook will provide ECBA’s clients with $500,000 of in-kind advertising to promote fair housing on Facebook.

Finally, Facebook will pay $1.9 million in damages and attorneys’ fees, including to provide future training for housing advertisers on how to use social media in a manner consistent with fair housing laws and to create programming to promote fair housing using social media.

The Plaintiffs are represented by ECBA attorneys Diane L. Houk, Katherine Rosenfeld, and David Berman.

Click here to read NFHA’s press release.

Click here to read the settlement agreement.

Read more about ECBA’s work on this case in the New York Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, and NPR.

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Haggis Abandons Case against Haleigh Breest

Late yesterday, director Paul Haggis abandoned his lawsuit against Haleigh Breest. A lower court dismissed Haggis’ case on August 14, 2018, and Haggis quietly dropped his appeal yesterday.

Though the Haggis case against Ms. Breest is over, Ms. Breest’s sexual assault case against Mr. Haggis continues.

Read more about the case here, here, and here.

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ECBA Clients File Class Action to Challenge Conditions of Confinement at Brooklyn MDC

February 22, 2019 — Plaintiffs David Scott and Jeremy Cerda filed a class action lawsuit today against Warden Herman Quay in federal court. The case challenges the conditions of confinement at Brooklyn’s federal jail, Metropolitan Detention Center (“MDC”), during the humanitarian crisis that unfolded over the bitterly cold week of January 27, 2019 to February 3, 2019, after an electrical fire at the jail.

As widely reported and alleged in the complaint, during the crisis, people were left locked in their cells with almost no light or heat for a week. People were confined in near pitch-black darkness. People sat shivering in their beds, huddled under blankets with little or no heat in the cells. The suit also alleges that the lack of light and heat was compounded by an array of other of brutal conditions. People were confined to their cells continuously for days. Hot showers and hot water were suspended or severely limited. Cells with toilets that were not functioning were filled with the smell of decaying feces. People continued to live in their soiled clothing and bedsheets without any laundry. Requests for medical and psychiatric care were ignored. People had no access to regular or hot food. Communication with the outside world—whether by email, phone or visits from lawyers or family—ceased. People struggled to maintain their sanity in a void of information about when the blackout would end. And of course, jail employees were forced to work under these impossible circumstances. The lawsuit also claims that, in response to the crisis, MDC’s Warden, Defendant Herman Quay, engaged in a dereliction of his obligation to provide these most basic minimal living standards to more than a thousand people in his care and custody.  These problems were longstanding and foreseeable, and the Warden failed to assess the infrastructure problems that had long plagued the jail.

ECBA Attorneys Katherine R. Rosenfeld and O. Andrew F. Wilson represent Mr. Scott, Mr. Cerda and the putative class.  To read a copy of the complaint, click here. To read coverage of the crisis in the New York Times, click here.  To read the coverage in Gothamist, click here.

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