Housing Provider Allowed Harassment of Female Employees to Go Unchecked, Federal Agency Charges
NEW YORK - HELP USA, a nationwide provider of housing and support services, violated federal law when it failed to stop sexual harassment of female employees at one of its Bronx, New York housing facilities, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit filed today.
According to the EEOC's complaint, a supervisor at the company's Morris Avenue location regularly directed unwelcome sexual advances to female employees, made sexually offensive comments, and ogled women in the workplace. He also treated female subordinates in a verbally abusive manner, shouting at them and belittling them and their work. One employee's repeated complaints about the supervisor's conduct went unheeded for months. A manager responded to one such complaint dismissively, stating that the supervisor engaging in the harassment was just being "playful."
Such conduct violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits discrimination - including harassment - because of sex. Sex harassment may include conduct that is openly sexual in nature, such as overtly sexual or sexist comments or behavior. It may also include hostile or abusive treatment that is not overtly sexual in nature but is targeted at members of one sex. The EEOC filed suit in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York (EEOC v. HELP USA, Inc., Civil Action No. 1:18-cv-07598) after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process. The agency's litigation effort will be led by Trial Attorneys Katie Linehan and Jadhira Rivera and supervised by Supervisory Trial Attorney Justin Mulaire.
"Sexual harassment in the workplace should never be brushed aside as playful or harmless," said EEOC New York Regional Attorney Jeffrey Burstein. "It is not harmless, and it takes a serious toll on both the employees who are subjected to it and the workplace as a whole."
EEOC New York District Director Kevin Berry stated, "Employers should ensure that every one of their employees knows what to do when they hear about or observe harassment in the workplace. This is especially true of line supervisors and managers, who are the eyes and ears of an employer and should know that inaction is not an acceptable response."
The New York District Office of the EEOC is responsible for processing discrimination charges, administrative enforcement and the conduct of agency litigation in New York, northern New Jersey, Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Vermont.