Sexual Harassment Determination Upheld

In Matter of Oz Trucking and Rigging Corp., No. 2018-09771, 2486/17, 2019 N.Y. Slip Op. 09009, 2019 WL 6884935 (N.Y.A.D. 2 Dept., Dec. 18, 2019), the court confirmed a New York State Division of Human Rights determination that the complainant suffered sexual harassment/hostile work environment, as well as the award of $7,500 for mental anguish and a civil fine/penalty of $10,000.

As to the merits, the court explained:

Here, substantial evidence supports the determination that Oz and Ousey discriminated against the complainant by subjecting her to a sexually hostile work environment. At the hearing, the complainant testified that, in the workplace, she was subjected by Ousey to severe and pervasive sexualized comments and unwanted touching. The complainant testified that she repeatedly rejected Ousey’s advances and expressed to him that she felt his comments were inappropriate. The complainant’s testimony was supported by testimony from other former employees of the petitioners. To the extent that the complainant’s testimony conflicted with Oz’s and Ousey’s evidence, such conflict presented issues of credibility that were for NYSDHR to resolve[.]

As to the award of compensatory damages, the court explained that “[i]n reviewing an award for mental anguish and humiliation, we assess whether the award is reasonably related to the wrongdoing, whether it is supported by substantial evidence, and whether it is comparable to awards in similar cases[.]”

Applying the law, the court found:

Here, mental anguish and humiliation were shown through the complainant’s testimony and were corroborated by the circumstances of the harassment (see Matter of New York City Tr. Auth. v State Div. of Human Rights, 78 NY2d at 216). The complainant testified, and NYSDHR determined, that she was subjected to “constant sexual badgering and inappropriate behavior” for the entire two years she was employed by Oz, and endured two instances of unwanted physical contact. On at least one occasion, the complainant was so humiliated and mortified that she left the office on the verge of tears. Moreover, the award is within the range established by similar cases (see Matter of Manhattan & Bronx Surface Tr. Operating Auth. v New York State Div. of Human Rights, 225 AD2d 553; Matter of A.S.A.P. Personnel Servs. v Rosa, 219 AD2d 648; Matter of Quality Care v Rosa, 194 AD2d 610).

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