Toilet-Spy Boss: Deja Vu?

News recently broke about a man, William Iglesias, who was arrested for secretly recording female employees in the bathroom of photography studio Foto Y Video Alexander in Brentwood. You can read about the story here and here.

I previously wrote about a case, Hughes v. Pacienza, involving similar conduct. There, the court granted plaintiff Hughes summary judgment on her sexual harassment/hostile work environment, constructive discharge, and intentional infliction of emotional distress claims.

As to her sexual harassment claim under the New York State Human Rights Law, Executive Law § 296(1)(a), the court held:

Hughes is female and a member of a class of persons protected by Executive Law 296. Pacienza’s conduct of concealing a camera within an air purifier and informing plaintiff that said device is an air purifier, evidences that defendant Pacienza’s conduct was covert and unwelcome. Hughes reaction of being overcome with great personal distress, humiliation, embarrassment and mental anguish support her claim that the conduct was unwelcome. Plaintiff Hughes’ work was also affected as evidenced by her reaction, and the fact that she immediately ended her employment with defendants. Lastly, defendant Pacienza was found liable for such conduct as supported by the felony complaint, certificate of disposition and sentencing transcript, in addition to Defendant Pacienza’s own admission[.]

A reasonable person would find the act of surreptitiously observing an individual’s private bathroom function to be an abusive act. Hughes by her reaction after discovery of the unlawful surveillance has demonstrated that she subjectively perceived the environment to be hostile.

In Hughes, the person conducting the surveillance had was convicted of the crime of unlawful surveillance in the second degree in violation of Penal Law § 250.45(3)(a), which provides:

A person is guilty of unlawful surveillance in the second degree when: … For no legitimate purpose, he or she intentionally uses or installs, or permits the utilization or installation of an imaging device to surreptitiously view, broadcast or record a person in a bedroom, changing room, fitting room, restroom, toilet, bathroom, washroom, shower or any room assigned to guests or patrons in a motel, hotel or inn, without such person’s knowledge or consent.

Thus, if the defendant in the Foto Y Video case is convicted of violating the above anti-surveillance law, there is ample support for a finding of liability for sexual harassment under the anti-discrimination laws, as well as intentional infliction of emotional distress.