Attorneys at Leeds Brown Law, P.C. devote our employment law practice to representing workers in New York City, Long Island, and the surrounding metropolitan areas. We handle claims under a variety of employment discrimination laws at the federal, state, and local levels. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, along with New York State and New York City Human Rights Laws prohibit discrimination in all areas of employment because of race, sex, religion, national origin, disability, pregnancy, age, and other protected classes. Discrimination includes harassment and most of the laws also protect employees from punishment for asserting their rights under the laws.
Employment discrimination and retaliation, particularly workplace sexual harassment, occur with more frequency than many people realize. A significant number of victims who file charges with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and subsequent lawsuits are women. In fact, women file the overwhelming majority of complaints regarding sex discrimination and harassment. But the number of men filing complaints is on the rise as more and more male workers try to understand and protect their workplace rights.
Because men allege sexual harassment less frequently than women, it is always interesting when a male files a lawsuit or complaint. According to a New York Post article, New York City firefighter Gordon Springs has done exactly that. Springs has filed a civil case for unspecified damages against several New York City firefighters, the ity, and FDNY Commissioner Daniel Nigro.
In October 2015, Springs filed a complaint with the EEOC alleging he was the victim of race discrimination and sexual harassment at Ladder Co. 35/Engine Co. 40, located on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. After their investigation, the EEOC determined there was “reasonable cause” to conclude Springs was the victim of sexual harassment and racial discrimination.
The abuse allegedly began on the day before Springs was set to start his post at the engine company. Following tradition, he went to the fire station to get a tour and meet the people who would become his co-workers. He alleges that upon arriving at the house, he was told: “Our house is really gay.” Shortly after that, he was taken to a room containing several naked firefighters. Springs claims that he was trapped there while at least one firefighter placed his genitalia on his face. The department allegedly categorized this behavior as typical hazing but Springs and his attorney take the position that it was unlawful workplace sexual assault and harassment.
After this incident, Springs claims that over the course of several months he was singled out on numerous occasions because he is African-American. He claims that one firefighter, the same one who conducted the alleged sexual assault, told him, “I don’t like you . . . Blacks getting on the job this way. You don’t have good work ethic.” Springs also claims that he was threatened with physical violence and told that if he reported misconduct to the EEOC, no one in the house would corroborate his story and then “the real fun would begin.”
The complaint also includes a retaliation claim. In the lawsuit, Springs states that in February 2016 he went to gather his uniform to take with him on a five-day training assignment. He arrived to find his suit “desecrated,” – stomped on and stabbed. When he reported it to his supervisors, Springs claims that he was “punished with 22 added days of retraining.”
Though the outcome of this case remains to be seen, this case illustrates some of the unique issues that arise when male employees experience sex harassment or other forms of discrimination in the workplace. Particularly, the notion held by many that men are supposed to go along with “hazing” rituals and other forms of “male bonding” or horseplay without complaint. One unnamed FDNY officer alluded to this in a quote he gave to the Post. He said, “There’s a culture in the firehouse when you’re a new guy.” The officer went on to intimate that some people are just too sensitive. The same environment exists at many other places of employment. The alleged culture may make it harder to stand up for one’s rights. But, a “culture” of unlawful behavior does not mean it is acceptable.
Contact employment discrimination attorneys at Leeds Brown if you think your employer or co-workers are violating your workplace rights. Regardless of your gender, you have legal recourse if your employer behaves in a manner that is unlawful under one of the many anti-discrimination laws in the United States, New York State and New York City. You can reach us at 1-800-585-4658.