No Matter How Important the Boss, Sexual Harassment Is Actionable
When sexual harassment occurs and involves individuals in notable government positions, it generally creates quite a scandal and can become high profile in the news. Such is the case with Assemblyman Vito Lopez who was accused of sexual harassment by two female staff members. Both claimed that he kissed, groped and harassed them according to a New York Times article in August 2012. Five women interviewed by the New York Times described the office environment as one filled with unwanted advances by Mr. Lopez and others. The workplace culture was characterized by crude language and sexual pressure and workers were afraid of reprisals if they refused to go along with it.
Vito Lopez is 71 years of age and was the Chairman of the Brooklyn Democratic Party. After the alleged harassment incident became public, he tendered his resignation as chairman.
Attempts to keep the harassment claims quiet led to a secret settlement instead of a lawsuit being filed. However, the attempt at secrecy backfired resulting in even greater public outrage over the lack of disclosure and the fact that more than $100,000 in taxpayer’s money was used to pay the settlement. State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver handled the settlement, and when Governor Cuomo and other elected officials discovered it, they called for an investigation into how the Assembly handles sexual harassment claims.
While, Mr. Lopez relinquished his position as chairman, he refused to resign his Assembly member position and his constituency re-elected him in the November 2012 election.
The matter continues to be an issue before the Assembly Ethics Committee. In fact, the ethics violations involving the sexual harassment scandal recently came before the New York Legislature.
Anyone subjected to sexual harassment no matter how important or lofty the position of their superior has the right to take legal action. If you experience sexual harassment in the workplace, discuss your situation with a New York discrimination lawyer and find out about protecting your rights.