In Lozada v. Elmont Fire Dept., decided July 22, 2014, the New York State Division of Human Rights found that complainant, volunteer firefighter Beatrie Lozada, was subjected to a sexually hostile work environment in violation of the New York State Human Rights Law. It dismissed, however, her claims that she was subject to discrimination based on her Hispanic ethnicity and marital status, as well as her retaliation claim.
The facts supporting the Division’s finding of a sexually hostile work environment included complainant being called “Badonkadonk” (which, as the decision clarifies, is “a colloquial expression for an extremely curvaceous female buttocks”), being grabbed from behind, being sexually assaulted by having an ice cube forcibly inserted into her vagina, and receiving a lewd text message stating “I want to eat your pussy”, prompting laughter from other firefighters.
The Division also found that the respondent was liable to the complainant for having condoned the unlawfully discriminatory actions of its firefighters. Notably, it failed to investigate the allegations or engage in corrective action even after being placed on notice of what was going on.
Although her volunteer status precluded complainant from receiving back pay, the Division found that an award of emotional distress damages was “entirely appropriate” and awarded complainant $60,000. It also imposed a civil fine of $25,000.