$10,000 Awarded in Sexual Harassment Case Against Chaffee Flatts and Owner

In New York State Division of Human Rights v. Hawk, 2021 N.Y. Slip Op. 03687, 2021 WL 2389091 (N.Y. App. Div. 4th Dept. June 11, 2021), the court enforced orders issued by the New York State Division of Human Rights that found respondents Ronald E. Hawk and Big Money Jim, Inc., doing business as Chaffee Flatts Bar and Grill liable to complainant Carol Poust for sexual harassment and age-based discrimination.

After a fact finding hearing, the Administrative Law Judge awarded complainant $10,000 in compensatory damages for mental anguish and humiliation and imposed a $3,000 civil penalty based on claims of a hostile work environment and constructive discharge of complainant’s employment. The NYSDHR adopted the recommended findings of fact, opinion, decision and order of the ALJ.

As to the merits, the court noted:

[N]either Hawk nor Chaffee Flatts answered the petition. Nonetheless, an enforcement proceeding initiated by petitioner raises the issue of whether its determination was supported by sufficient evidence in the record as a whole” even where that petition is unopposed. Applying that standard, we conclude that petitioner’s determinations are supported by substantial evidence inasmuch as the administrative record contains relevant proof as a reasonable mind may accept as adequate to support the relevant conclusions and factual findings. Here, even though the record contains some conflicting evidence and room for choice exists, there is a rational basis for the determination and thus the judicial function is exhausted. [Cleaned up.]

The court explained:

Hawk, as owner and president of Chaffee Flatts, and the person who committed the complained-of sexual harassment and age-based discrimination, may be held individually liable for the discriminatory actions that damaged complainant (see Matter of New York State Div. of Human Rights v Nancy Potenza Design & Bldg. Servs., Inc., 87 AD3d 1365, 1365-1366 [4th Dept 2011]; see generally Patrowich v Chemical Bank, 63 NY2d 541, 542 [1984]; Matter of New York State Div. of Human Rights v ABS Elecs. Inc., 102 AD3d 967, 969 [2d Dept 2013], lv denied 24 NY3d 901 [2014]). Furthermore, Chaffee Flatts may be held liable for Hawk’s conduct because he was “ ‘within the class of an employer organization’s officials who may be treated as the organization’s proxy’ ” (Matter of Winkler v New York State Div. of Human Rights, 59 AD3d 1055, 1056 [4th Dept 2009], lv denied 13 NY3d 717 [2010]), and because it knew of Hawk’s conduct yet did nothing to ameliorate or otherwise correct the situation (see Matter of Father Belle Community Ctr. v New York State Div. of Human Rights, 221 AD2d 44, 53-55 [4th Dept 1996], lv denied 89 NY2d 809 [1997]).

As to the monetary awards, the court held that the $10,000 award for mental anguish and humiliation was reasonably related to the wrongdoing, supported by substantial evidence, and comparable awards in similar cases, and that the $3,000 civil penalty was not excessive.

Share This: