The Human Resources Department or Representative (HR) is often the first stop for an employee who has a problem at work. HR reps have the task of, among other things, handling complaints about alleged discrimination, harassment, and other unfair treatment. When an employee has an issue with his or her supervisor, HR can be a reliable place to get support and help. At times, company policy even requires employees to consult with HR when they are having a workplace problem.
But what happens when the substance of your workplace complaint involves someone in HR? What do you do, for example, if the director of HR at your place of employment is sexually harassing you? This is the exact dilemma faced by a former client relations manager at Utilisave in New York City.
Trevor Isaacs filed a lawsuit in Federal Court for the Southern District of New York on July 17, 2017. The lawsuit names Utilisave, LLC, Marina Novikova and Michael Steifman as Defendants. In his complaint, Isaacs alleged that the Defendants violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII) and New York State law. Isaacs claims that Novikova repeatedly sexually harassed him, Steifman, the CEO of Utilisave, did nothing to help, and that both defendants retaliated him in ways that culminated with his termination. All of these things, if proven to be true, violate federal and state employment discrimination laws.
According to the assertions in Isaacs’ complaint, he began work for Utilisave in April 2014 as a client services manager. In 2016, the Human Resources Director, Novikova, allegedly started talking to Isaacs about her “swinging” lifestyle, her son’s porn watching habits, and how to have sex. She also, he stated, asked him about his sexual orientation “constantly.”
After one meeting, Isaacs claimed Novikova gave him an unwanted hug and began nibbling on “Plaintiff’s left ear lobe.” She allegedly then stated, “I hope you’re not going to sue me.” The straw that broke the camel’s back came in the form of a sexually inappropriate and offensive text message, the receipt of which sent Isaacs to the CEO’s office to formally complain about the hostile work environment Novikova had created.
Steifman directed Isaacs back to Novikova. Steifman took no action other than to instruct Isaacs to speak with her about the problem. When he did, Novikova apologized.
In the court papers, Isaacs stated that the retaliation began immediately following the apology from Novikova. Steifman and Novikova allegedly stripped him of several job duties and gave them to other workers. They also started looking to hire someone to replace him. Isaacs claims they reprimanded him over “trivial matters” and on August 9, 2016, they gave him his first ever negative performance review. Steifman also, he claims, falsely accused him of being late for work.
In the meantime, the sexual harassment by Novikova resumed when she showed him sexually inappropriate videos on her phone.
Title VII and New York State Law prohibit employment discrimination based on sex. Sexual harassment is considered to be a form of sex discrimination. Sexual harassment includes things such as lewd jokes, unwanted touching, propositions or sexual comments that create a hostile work environment. Employers have an obligation to take steps to keep the workplace free from such behavior and to protect employees when they experience it. The laws also forbid employers from retaliating against any employee who complains or tries to stop such harassment. Retaliation includes things like firing, demoting, transferring or other adverse employment actions.
Isaacs’ complaint, in addition to the federal and state claims for sexual harassment and retaliation, alleges that he was discriminated against because of his sexual orientation. Title VII does not directly address sexual orientation, but NYS and NYC laws specifically prohibit discrimination and retaliation based on sexual orientation.
If you are sexually harassed at work, you don’t have to face it alone. Leeds Brown Law, P.C. has been helping New Yorkers fight sexual harassment and discrimination for decades. Your employment rights matter to us. The Plaintiff, in this case, has asked for damages that reflect the loss of income, loss of benefits, and salary as emotional pain, humiliation, and physical distress. He also asks for punitive damages because the defendants acted maliciously and knowingly.
Call Leeds Brown for a free consultation today and find out more about your rights to file a sexual harassment claim. 1-800-585-4658