ECBAWM 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 seven 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.). ECBAWM attorneys Jonathan S. Abady, Ilann M. Maazel, and Zoe Salzman represent the plaintiff.
“Publicist Accusing Paul Haggis of Sexual Assault Pursuing Claims With Rarely Used NYC Local Law,” Law.com
“Oscar-winning filmmaker Paul Haggis’ attempt to sue his alleged rape victim for ‘intentional infliction of emotional distress’ is thrown out by a New York judge,” The Daily Mail
“Paul Haggis Must Face Rape Lawsuit in New York,” The Hollywood Reporter
“Paul Haggis must face civil rape suit: judge,” New York Post
ECBAWM 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. ECBAWM’s Ilann M. Maazel and Emma L. Freeman represent Mr. Olivares.
To learn more, read coverage from the New York Daily News.
The firm’s client LaDonna Powell was profiled in this week’s This American Life. 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.
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 follow-up story on November 21, 2017.
Elizabeth Saylor, Alanna Kaufman, and David Lebowitz represent Ms. Powell and three other Allied employers who were discriminated against.
On May 29, 2018, ECBAWM 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 as Executive Deputy Commissioner of the Office of People with Developmental Disabilities.
Patricia Gunning is represented by Richard D. Emery, Ilann M. Maazel, and Debra Greenberger.
For more information, read coverage from the New York Post, Times Union, and New York Daily News.
In “O.W. Holmes Jr. and #MeToo,” ECBAWM 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.”
ECBAWM 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, ECBAWM 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 ECBAWM 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.”
LaDonna Powell’s federal discrimination and sexual harassment complaint
On November 16, 2017, ECBAWM 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.
ECBAWM 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 follow-up 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.
ECBAWM 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.
“Women are incredibly afraid to come forward,” said Salzman. “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.”