Current and former employees of the Plaza Hotel, six in total, filed an explosive lawsuit in New York Supreme Court alleging rampant sexual harassment on the job. One of the current employees, Dana Lewis, told ABC News “It’s a never-ending nightmare.” ABC News reported that the court documents claim the women expereinced “outrageous and incessant sexual harassment and assault by senior management and their male counterparts.”
The complaint contains claims of gender discrimination and sexual harassment in violation of New York City Human Rights Law (NYCHRL) and New York State Human Rights Law (NYSHRL). It also contains claims of retaliation which also violates both laws. The plaintiffs seek monetary damages, including punitive damages as well as injunctive relief.
The complaint is 50 pages long and contains details about wildly inappropriate comments, creepy propositions, name calling, offers of sex, and sexual assault. It tries to demonstrate what the plaintiffs claim is an institutional acceptance and perpetration of a “rape culture” at the plaza. The plaintiffs allege sexual harassment is so prevalent that it is expected, tolerated, and even encouraged by the male managers and employees at the hotel.
Some behavior the hotel general manager, coworkers, servers, department managers, are accused of include:
The complaint also articulates numerous times the Plaza did nothing to assist the women to put a stop to the harassment. Some of the men accused of harassment were supervisors. These same men were conducting job performance reviews which made reporting the problems difficult. Some complaints were ignored and dismissed. At times, the women were subject to intimidation and threats of retaliation.
NYSHRL and NYCHRL prohibit sex and gender discrimination. They also prohibit sexual harassment in the workplace. Sexual harassment is unlawful when it creates a hostile work environment. Sexual harassment usually involves behavior and conduct that is sexual but is not limited to overt actions. It can be verbal, physical, involve photos, videos, unwanted propositions, jokes and unwanted physical contact. A supervisor or co-worker can be responsible for sexual harassment of this kind. The victim of a hostile work environment does not necessarily have to be the direct target of the harassment.
Your employer is responsible for making sure that your workplace is free from discrimination and harassment. It must take reasonable steps to keep you safe from a hostile work environment.
The laws also prohibit retaliation against an employee for exercising his or her rights to stop sexual harassment. An employer may not threaten or take any adverse employment action because the employee filed a complaint, participated in an investigation, filed a lawsuit, or reported sexual harassment.
Sexual harassment and retaliation often go together but either can stand alone as a cause of action. Often, a retaliation claim is stronger than an underlying harassment claim.
These are serious allegations against a hotel that many consider an iconic New York City and even world institution. But these women claim that the conduct described in their complaint was a daily part of their work life. Some employees chose to ignore it, and others tried to get help. At least four of the plaintiffs remain employed at the Plaza. The reasons for this include not being able to afford to leave and not feeling like they should have to. These employees allege that they are still experiencing sexual harassment and the effects of working in a hostile environment.
Leeds Brown Law, P.C. represents clients in New York City and the surrounding areas who experience sexual harassment in the workplace. If you are the unwelcome recipient of lewd behavior, inappropriate jokes, touching or frequent sexual propositions, call our office for a free case evaluation. If you face retaliation because you complained or tried to seek help stopping the harassment, we can help with that too. You should not lose your job or be punished for trying to protect your rights.
Call 1-800-585-4658 today to find out if you have a sexual harassment or gender discrimination claim.