Federal Sexual Harassment Complaint Against Vito Lopez and Sheldon Silver

Below is the complaint, captioned Burhans and Rivera v. Lopez and Silver, 13 CIV 3870, filed in the Southern District of New York by Victoria Burhans and Chloe Rivera against (former) Assemblyman Vito Lopez and Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver.  

Plaintiffs allege violations of the Fourteenth Amendment (through 42 U.S.C. § 1983), the New York State Human Rights Law, and the New York City Human Rights Law.

Generally, they allege:

Vito Lopez … used his public office to commit egregious acts of sexual harassment against Burhans and Rivera, two women who worked in his district office. Lopez’s harassment of plaintiffs included, among other things, unwanted physical contact, unwanted sexual advances, and incessant comments about their bodies, clothing and appearance. Lopez would not have been able to abuse plaintiffs without the assistance of the Speaker of the Assembly, Sheldon Silver. Months before Lopez hired plaintiffs, Silver and his senior staff learned that at least two other women on Lopez’s staff had credibly complained that Lopez had sexually harassed them and other employees. Rather than refer those initial two complaints to the Assembly’s Committee on Ethics and Guidance …, as was required by the Assembly’s sexual harassment policies, Silver and Lopez instead orchestrated a confidential payment to Lopez’s previous victims and conditioned that payment on the victims remaining silent. Silver and his staff made no attempt to investigate Lopez or to try to protect the other women on Lopez’s staff. As a result of Silver’s complete failure to meet his obligations as the most senior official in the Assembly, Lopez continued his deplorable conduct and sexually harassed Burhans and Rivera.

After providing background as to, for example, Lopez’s alleged harassment of other female employees and Silver’s alleged failure to take appropriate remedial steps regarding that harassment, the complaint discusses the conduct specific to plaintiffs beginning at paragraph 49.

Plaintiffs allege, for example, that

Within six weeks of hiring plaintiffs, Lopez began to sexually harass them. … Lopez’s conduct included: a) repeated comments to plaintiffs about their physical appearance, their bodies, their attire, and their private relationships; b) repeated unwelcome sexual overtures; and c) repeated inappropriate and unwelcome physical contact.

Specific acts of harassment are set forth beginning at paragraph 55.


Share This: