Sexual harassment case against Assembly speaker moves forward
Sex discrimination can occur in any organization, at any level. But this certainly does not mean that sexual harassment or discrimination is acceptable.
Indeed, a lawsuit that is moving forward against the speaker of the New York Assembly is a reminder that wrongful sexual conduct in the workplace can be challenged. It can be challenged even when those who have engaged in such conduct are of very high rank.
In today’s post, we will discuss the Assembly case in which this is occuring.
The case involves a sexual harassment complaint filed by two female staff members of the New York Assembly. The two women, both in their 20s, filed the federal complaint after experiencing what they contend was harassment by Assemblyman Vito Lopez last year.
The most recent development in the case was a ruling by a federal judge last week. In that ruling, the judge said that Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver can be included in the complaint. The Speaker can be included, the judge found, because there is evidence that he was responsible for creating a culture of sex discrimination that allowed Assemblyman Lopez to harass the two staff members.
The types of harassment that are alleged against the assemblyman include:
• Pressuring a female staff member to go without a bra at work – then becoming angry and going hours without speaking with her when she did wear one
• Inviting a female staffer on a week-long trip to Canada that had no real work purpose
• Suggesting that a female staffer get some pointers on how to “dress sexy”
• Trying to get a female staffer to provide sexual favors to someone from the governor’s staff in exchange for support on a bill
There were also previous sexual harassment complaints by at least two other women on Speaker Silver’s staff against Assemblyman Lopez, who resigned in May of 2013.
Indeed, the federal judge found there was a pattern of sexual harassment complaints against high-ranking Assembly officials that went back for a decade.
Speaker Silver asserted that he had legislative immunity from being included in the complaint. The federal judge ruled, however, that Silver’s failure to address the culture of sex discrimination he had helped foster meant that the case against him could go forward.
Source: Courthouse News Service, “Bias Suit Against NY Speaker Gets Green Light,” Adam Klasfeld, June 11, 2014