At Leeds Brown Law, P.C. our attorneys take pride in the work we do – representing victims of sexual harassment and other types of sex discrimination in the workplace. Over the decades, we have seen it all:
These are situations we hear about every day, and no workplace is immune from them. Small businesses and large corporations alike can be responsible for sexual harassment. Some people claim there are certain industries with a long history of being male-dominated, which provide a breeding ground for sexual harassment, but in reality, it happens everywhere.
In a lawsuit recently filed in New York Supreme Court, a former employee of AIG, the insurance powerhouse with over 50 thousand employees, claims that she and other female employees were targets of an ongoing pattern of sexual harassment in the workplace. Marlee Valenti worked at AIG until January of 2014 when AIG terminated her employment. Valenti’s lawsuit illuminates some of the frustrations that result from sexual harassment and how fear of retaliation can make it difficult for an employee to stand up to unlawful behavior.
The New York Daily News reported some details of Valenti’s lawsuit and her story is similar to thousands of others. She began working at AIG, a company founded in 1919, in 2009, promptly received a promotion to the position of senior underwriter and was on the road to what she believed would be a long and illustrious career. According to Valenti, everything changed when she received a notice that she was selected to move into the Public Management Liability Commercial Lines Division. Valenti claims that the department had the unofficial title of “boys club” because only 10% of its employees were female.
An article in the New York Post stated that in addition to allegations of being subjected to a “never-ending stream” of harassment, Valenti’s complaint contains claims that on many occasions male employees would sneak under women’s’ desks to look up their skirts. There are also claims that the men “groped and licked” the females in the department.
Valenti states that she did not report the behavior because “she believed it to be pointless.” Valenti asserts that her direct supervisor, a defendant in the case, “was a willing participant in such behavior, as were other supervisors.”
Valenti claims that the same supervisor obviously disliked her and that he treated her in a hostile manner. Her complaint states that she received a negative performance review in 2013. Valenti asserts that the review was unfair and that she received treatment that was unlike the treatment male employees received for similar reviews.
After hearing that her colleagues were bad-mouthing her, Valenti filed a report containing over 100 pages alleging sexual harassment and unfair treatment that occurred in the department while under that supervisor’s supervision. AIG terminated her employment one-month later after doing what she called a “perfunctory investigation.”
This case is only in the very beginning stages but is a good example of a critical problem that arises for many victims; what do you do when your supervisor is part of the culture of harassment? Valenti felt, perhaps rightfully so if what she alleges is true, that she could not have a meaningful dialogue with her direct supervisor because he was aware and participated in the illegal behavior. Valenti’s situation was made worse by her assertion that several other supervisors were also aware of the harassment.
Perhaps Valenti could have advised the human resources department earlier in the process, but her concern about retaliation may have been a valid one. Once she did complain about the harassment, despite her detailed report, Valenti claims that her termination was the direct result. We will have to see how Valenti and AIG resolve the case.
If you are being sexually harassed in the workplace and are not sure what to do to protect your rights, contact an employment rights attorney at Leeds Brown. Sexual harassment is unlawful under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, New York State and New York City Human Rights Law. So is retaliation.
We can assist you to preserve evidence of harassment and retaliation and guide you through the process of investigating and reporting the conduct and can represent you should you wish to proceed with a claim for monetary compensation. Call Leeds Brown today 1-800-585-4658
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