Award-winning restaurants in New York City, Hollywood movie sets, and hotel rooms, government offices: These are all places facing a recent spate of sexual harassment allegations. The latest story comes from New York. William Hoyt, who goes by the name “Sam,” is a former Buffalo Assemblyman and former regional president of the Empire State Development Corporation. Hoyt was recently accused of sexual harassment by a woman who was, at the time the harassment took place, a state employee. Governor Andrew Cuomo appointed Hoyt to his senior position. According to the to the victim, he and his office were “deliberately indifferent” toward her frequent complaints about Hoyt.
Hoyt resigned in the wake of the allegations. The victim, Lisa Marie Cater filed a lawsuit against Hoyt, Cuomo, the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) and the state of New York. The complaint was filed on November 18, 2017, in New York Southern District Court. The New York Post reported that in the court papers, Cater asserts that Hoyt “got her a job at the DMV and then leveraged it to “manipulate, sexually harass and sexually assault” her.”
The laws about sexual harassment are clear. Employers may not sexually harass employees. It is a form of unlawful sex discrimination. Federal, State and City laws prohibit quid pro quo sexual harassment. They also prohibit sexual harassment that creates a hostile work environment. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII), New York State Human Rights Law (NYSHRL) and New York City Human Rights Law (NYCHRL) are designed to protect you from sexual harassment in your place of employment.
Sexual harassment can occur between members of the same or different genders. Both men and women can be victims.
Some examples of sexual harassment in the workplace may include:
Employers may be responsible for the actions of their employees because they have a duty to keep the workplace free from sexual harassment. When employers know or should know about harassment and fail to correct it, the victims may be able to collect monetary damages from the employers or the perpetrator.
Title VII, the NYSHRL and the NYCHRL also prohibit retaliation. This prohibition means that employers may not “punish” employees for trying to assert their rights under the laws. Employers may not make threats or act in a way that penalizes employees who report, complain, file charges or lawsuits. Retaliation can include firing, demoting, docking pay, taking away work, transferring or threatening any negative employment consequence. Employers may be liable for retaliation even when employees can’t demonstrate the occurrence of sexual harassment.
A recent New York Times article states that according to the complaint, after contacting ESDC for housing assistance, Hoyt personally reached out to Cater. He allegedly offered help getting her a job, and their interactions soon became “flirtatious” but “intimidating.” She alleges in court papers that Hoyt began texting her many times a day for weeks. He helped her find an apartment and a job at Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). Cater got this job with no interview or formal application process. Cater claims that Hoyt hung the job over her head and that she had to go along with his inappropriate behavior to remain employed.
In addition to “harassing calls and texts,” Hoyt allegedly appeared at her home and forcibly grabbed and kissed her. Cater also claims that on one occasion Hoyt forcefully grabbed her crotch, hurting her, and telling her “you know this is what I want.”
The New York Post reported that the “barrage of unwanted kisses, crotch-grabbing, stalking, and daily calls, emails, and sexts continued for a year until Cater found herself on the brink of a nervous breakdown.” She has since stopped working for the DMV.
In addition to the allegations of sexual harassment against Hoyt, Cater claims in her lawsuit that Governor Cuomo’s office ignored her complaints. An attorney for Cuomo told the New York Times that her claims were “patently and demonstrably false,” noting that the state had launched three separate investigations into the matter, which remain open, but that she had refused to cooperate.”
Cater’s case against Hoyt and the Governor is in the very early stages and will likely remain unresolved for some time. Cater allegedly already received $50,000 from Hoyt as part of a confidentiality agreement. Cater alleges that she was offered additional money in exchange for her continued silence, a claim the Governor’s office strongly denies. She decided to violate the confidentiality agreement when she saw Hoyt “leaving with fanfare” while people acted oblivious to his sexual misconduct. Cater is seeking unspecified damages in her lawsuit.
If you have experienced sexual harassment at your workplace, you are not alone. No industry is immune to sexual harassment. If you have a job as a waiter or waitress, a secretary, a construction worker, nurse, assistant or entertainer, you can be the victim of sexual harassment.
At Leeds Brown Law, P.C. our sexual harassment attorneys can help. We represent employees in New York City and the greater metropolitan area in employment discrimination, sexual harassment, and retaliation cases.
Call our office at 1-800-585-4658 for a free evaluation of your sexual harassment claim.