Court Upholds Sexual Harassment (Hostile Work Environment) Jury Verdict for Plaintiff, Citing Rejection of Unwanted Advances and Lack of “Meaningful” Anti-Discrimination Policy

In Belton v. Lal Chicken, Inc., 2016 NY Slip Op 03115, 2016 WL 1629367 (N.Y. App. Div. 1st Dept. Apr. 26, 2016), the Appellate Division, First Department upheld a jury verdict of $320,000 for plaintiff on her sexual harassment (hostile work environment) claim under the New York City Human Rights Law.

From the decision:

Plaintiff adduced sufficient evidence to support the jury’s verdict on her hostile work environment claim under the New York City Human Rights Law[.] She testified that she was subjected to unwanted touching and sexual advances for months by her supervisor, despite telling him that she was not interested. The jury credited her version of events and not the supervisor’s claim of a consensual relationship. The videotape taken by plaintiff depicting the supervisor engaging in the complained-of behavior was properly admitted. Contrary to defendants’ contentions, there is no requirement that a video recording have audio to be admissible. …

The trial court correctly declined to charge the jury on mitigation under the City HRL, since having an anti-harassment poster on the wall with managers’ phone numbers, and mentioning the policy in management meetings, is insufficient evidence of a “meaningful” policy, as the statute requires (Administrative Code § 8–107[13][d][1][i]). Nor were defendants entitled to assert the “Faragher–Ellerth” affirmative defense … since that defense is unavailable in a City HRL claim[.]

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