Full 5th Circ. To Examine Employer-Friendly Title VII Rule

The family behind a massive Brooklyn Navy Yards film studio complex stands accused of stiffing local partners out of $50 million in profits, a new lawsuit contends.

Steiner Studios — where films such as Steven Spielberg’s”West Side Story” and Lin-Manuel Miranda’s “Tick Tick Boom!” were filmed — has been named in a civil suit filed by a group of local entrepreneurs who says they developed the complex then were cut out of profits, court records show.

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Brooklyn Movie Studio Shut Out $50M Profits From Partners

The family behind a massive Brooklyn Navy Yards film studio complex stands accused of stiffing local partners out of $50 million in profits, a new lawsuit contends.

Steiner Studios — where films such as Steven Spielberg’s”West Side Story” and Lin-Manuel Miranda’s “Tick Tick Boom!” were filmed — has been named in a civil suit filed by a group of local entrepreneurs who says they developed the complex then were cut out of profits, court records show.

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Rape Trauma Syndrome and Common Rape Myths

{5 minutes to read}  In January, former Hollywood movie producer Harvey Weinstein faced trial in New York Supreme Court. Weinstein, who has been accused of sexual assault and harassment by at least 80 women in the past few years, faced several charges including rape, sexual abuse, sexual misconduct, and predatory sexual assault. Ultimately, the jury returned a guilty verdict on two charges — criminal sex act in the first degree and rape in the third degree. Weinstein was acquitted of predatory sexual assault and first degree rape. Currently awaiting sentencing, he faces a minimum sentence of five years and a maximum sentence of 25 years.

As a central part of their strategy, Weinstein’s defense team argued that several of his accusers continued to remain in contact with him well after their alleged attacks. The defense pointed to “friendly communications” between Weinstein and the women, business meetings, continued employment, and even trips. This tactic was an effort to discredit the victims, and convince the jury that his encounters with his accusers were, in fact, consensual sexual relationships. However, expert testimony from psychiatrists in the field can shed light into the complex coping mechanisms of sexual assault victims that counter such a strategy.

There are many commonly believed notions regarding the behaviors of rape and sexual assault victims following an attack. However, the truth is that the reactions of victims can manifest in ways which often seem atypical to those looking from the outside in. These presupposed “rape myths” perpetuate false beliefs, namely that victims distance themselves from their attackers following an assault, and that victims report the attack to law enforcement officials. Expert testimony can be used to educate the jury on rape trauma syndrome and common rape myths.

Rape trauma syndrome (RTS) is a post-traumatic stress disorder — specifically related to sexual assault — that is accompanied by certain physical or psychological responses. Most victims of rape and sexual assault experience some form of RTS. Courts have regularly held that properly admitted expert testimony can be used to provide an explanation for victim behavior which is inconsistent with a claim of rape. Expert testimony on RTS can help the jury in resolving frequent misconceptions that often stem from social attitudes regarding sexual assault, consent, and culpability.

Reporting the Attack

In the Weinstein case, the prosecution called on Dr. Barbara Ziv, a forensic psychiatrist, to testify on rape myths and explain the complexities of rape trauma to the jury. Dr. Ziv testified that it is “very rare” for victims to immediately disclose incidents of assault to those around them and even less common for victims to report the assault to law enforcement, especially when they have been assaulted by someone they actually know. 

Similar to Dr. Ziv, experts in the field explain that it is common for victims to decide not to report attacks to the police in an effort to move past their experience. Survivors tend to feel re-victimized by the criminal justice system and decide to cope in other ways. 

Additionally, statistics show that reporting is far less likely when a victim has an established relationship with the offender — whether they are intimate partners, former intimate partners, friends, or acquaintances. 

Reasons victims decide not to report incidents of sexual assault include: 

•Shame,

•Fear of a lack of evidence,

•Belief the attack was a personal matter, and

•Uncertainty of the offender’s intent.

Distancing From the Attacker

Dr. Ziv also provided testimony on victims distancing themselves from their attackers — another classic rape myth. In response to their assault, a victim may decide to continue their relationship with the offender in an effort to regain control after an attack. Victims may also try to convince themselves an encounter was consensual by maintaining the status quo with their offender. This form of deflection helps victims to cope with the serious trauma they suffered at the hand of their offender and is their attempt to maintain normalcy.

In the Weinstein case, Dr. Ziv explained that the reasons for continuing communication with an offender can be complex. A victim may be fearful of losing out on job opportunities and ruining their reputation, and decide to put their experience “in a box.” These fears, coupled with threats from their offender, lead victims to deny their experiences and stay involved with offenders even after being assaulted.

James A. Vagnini
Partner
email: jvagnini@vkvlawyers.com
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SB7848A Increases Worker’s Ability to Bring Claims of Sexual Harassment to Court

workplace harassment formBy Shaloni Pinto and Aimee Christianson
{Read in 4 minutes}  With the passage of New York Senate Bill 7848A, the state will make it easier for workers to bring sexual harassment claims to court. Aimed to prevent sexual harassment in the workplace, the bill will amend the general business law to limit the coverage of mandatory arbitration clauses in relation to sexual harassment and will also amend the labor law to promote the prevention of sexual harassment.Continue reading

Workplace Discrimination or Harassment? What Should You Do!!

Workplace Discrimination or Harassment? What Should You Do!! by James Vagnini{Read in 6 minutes}  Recently I posted an article reminding employees that they must file a harassment complaint within 180-300 days after the latest occurrence. While working on that blog, the question came up about what an employee should do if they are the victim of harassment.
Report the Behavior
First and foremost, report the questionable behavior to someone in your Human Resources (HR) department. The company is not expected to have eyes and ears everywhere; internally,  most of them require their employees to report incidents, and the law also requires employees to report incidents themselves.Continue reading

Supervisor sues Omni hotels, alleging sexual harassment and retaliation when she reported it

A former supervisor with Omni Hotels & Resorts has filed suit against the Dallas-based company, alleging sexual harassment and saying the company broke federal laws governing equal pay.Continue reading

Does Lack of State Level Prohibition Allow Discrimination in Texas?

Texas civil rights and discrimination attorneys point out areas in the law where Texas civil rights and discrimination protection falls through the cracks. Discrimination may have different motivations such as race, gender, national origin, sexual orientation and disability. Texans are not all protected equally when it comes to civil rights violations and protection from discrimination. Examples include:
Public Accommodations
gender discrimination texasMost people agree that public accommodations should be free from policies that discriminate. Texas has no statewide law prohibiting such discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, age, national origin, sexual orientation, or physical handicap. Some local governments have passed ordinances prohibiting discrimination in public places. This has resulted in confusion as to what is legal from one municipality to the next. Texas civil rights and discrimination attorneys claim this highlights the need for statewide legislation.
 
Discrimination in the Workplace
workplace discrimination texasAccording to state law in Texas, civil rights in the workplace exist in many areas including employees’ race, age, gender, religion, national origin or disability. However, Texas civil rights and discrimination state law does not extent to sexual orientation. Texas civil rights and discrimination attorneys maintain that policies that favor non-discrimination are good business.
Discrimination in Education
education discrimination texasAccording to Texas civil rights and discrimination laws there are no specific prohibitions stopping a public educational institution from discriminating on account of race, ethnicity, color, gender, disability, sexual orientation, disability, religion or national origin of the student or the parent of the student. There are laws in place prohibiting student on student harassment covered under bullying codes. However, there are no similar laws covering discrimination and harassment originating from employees of the educational institution.
Discrimination from Insurance Companies
employment discrimination texasInsurance companies are prohibited from discrimination because of race, ethnicity, color, gender, disability, marital status, disability, religion, geographic location or national origin. However, Texas civil rights and discrimination laws make no provision for the prohibition based on sexual orientation and sexual identity. This discrimination can take form of higher rates, refusal to insure, limited coverage, extent of coverage and nature of coverage.
Since in Texas, civil rights and discrimination protection does no extent to sexual orientation and transgender people when it comes to insurance coverage, many insurance companies deny coverage for procedures related to transgender and sexual orientation issues.  Many are refused coverage for procedures because of their transgender and sexual orientation status and are required to put off the procedure or pay for it out of pocket when it should have covered by the insurance premium to begin with.

The Job Search and Discrimination by Age

justice, discrimination, law, lawyer, new york
When employers shut you out because you exceed some arbitrary age limit, this can be exceedingly frustrating. Not only is the employer perpetrating an obvious injustice, in many cases, it may be clear that you are best candidate for the position. There are laws prohibiting many types of discrimination. U. S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) enforces these laws. It behooves an employer to know the relevant laws and regulations. Age is one of the areas of discrimination covered by laws.
Employers are not to treat job applicants or existing employees less favorably because of their age. Current law, covered by Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (ADEA), applies to employees and job candidates equally. The law applies to people age forty and over. Employers can favor an older employee over a younger employee but not the other way around. The law applies even if both employees are over forty. In other words you cannot hire a 45 year old worker over a 55 year old employee due to age.
Work Contexts and Age Discrimination
age discrimination, age, workplaceThe law covers discrimination in many aspects including hiring, termination, pay level and pay raises, work assignments, promotions, layoffs, benefits, training and general working conditions.
 
Harassment and Age Discrimination

Law forbids harassment due to age. Examples of such harassment could include offensive remarks about a workers age. Harassment is not everyday good-humored banter or an isolated remark. However, if the banter and remarks become so severe and frequent that it creates a work environment that is hostile or offensive, that is harassment and prohibited by law. If the adverse treatment due to age results in negative employment decisions, such as termination, that is considered harassment and prohibited by law. It will be considered harassment if it is the victim’s manager or supervisor, a coworker or even someone who is not an employee such as client or vendor.
Policies, Practices and Age Discrimination
 Policies and practices implemented by an employer need to be applied to everyone without regard to age. When applied, policies and practices can be illegal if they can be shown to have harmed or impacted negatively employees forty year old or older due to their age. Areas commonly effected include:
work, policy

  • Training and apprenticeship programs.
  • Want ads and job notices.
  • Employment inquiries.
  • Benefits and retirement policies.

Any employer with more than twenty employees is subject to the Age Discrimination in Employment Act. It also applies to all government agencies, federal, state and local.

Retaliation – Employees Should Not Fear Reporting Discrimination –

Employees who have been discriminated or harassed against in the workplace should not be hesitant to report these claims.  Retaliation laws are in place to protect the employee from being harassed or targeted after they exercise their right to report discrimination.  When an employee reports discriminatory acts to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, their respective state equivalent, the Department of Labor, or even internally to their employer, retaliation laws are in place to stop the employer from taking adverse action against the wronged employee.
 
Retaliation laws protect against all forms of retaliation.  Retaliatory actions include, but are not limited to:
–          Disparate Hiring Practices
–          Unwarranted Firing
–          Pay Reductions
–          Change in Job Assignments
–          Promotion Discrepancies
–          Layoffs
–          Unwarranted Training Procedures
–          Denial of Fringe Benefits
–          Alteration of any other Term or Condition of Employment.
 
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is a federal agency in place to protect the rights of employees.  It is “an unlawful employment practice for an employer to discriminate against any of his employees…because the employee has opposed any practice made unlawful employment practice by Title VII.” 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-3(a).  EEOC Retaliation laws bar the employer from exercising any retaliatory acts, even retroactively, against an employee after they file an EEOC Charge of Discrimination.  Employees should not fear reporting discrimination because the EEOC is an agency to rectify these wrongs.
 
Most states have a functional state equivalent to the EEOC and this is another avenue for discriminated employees to use to remedy the harassment they have endured.  In New York specifically, New York Labor Law Article 20-C § 740 is in place to forbid an employer from taking retaliatory actions against an employee who reports discrimination in the work place.  New York employees have protection at both the Federal and State level when exercising their right to be free of discriminatory actions taken by their employer.  For employees working in New York City, they even have a third layer of protection under the New York City Human Rights Law.
 
Employees do not have to report acts of discrimination to one of these agencies in order to be afforded protection under these anti-retaliation laws.  An employee is safeguarded against retaliation in any form when they complain about discrimination or harassment directly to their employer by complaining to Human Resources, management or some equivalent.  It is vital, however, when complaining directly to your employer, that the aggrieved employee document their complaint of discrimination or harassment in some manner, whether through a formal document, email, or in the presence of a trusted witness.

 
For an employee to prove they have been retaliated against, they only need to show that the retaliation has produced “an injury or harm.” Burlington Northern & Sante Fe Ry. V. White, 548 U.S. 53, 67 (2006).  The injury or harm requirement must however stem from or convey a feeling or perception of discrimination.  Employees should not be weary of reporting acts of retaliation, but should exercise their right to be free of these acts.  Retaliation can also occur if someone has been negatively affected by your report of discrimination.  The EEOC’s Retaliation laws protect the rights of third–parties, even though they have not made claims of discrimination themselves. Thompson v. North American Stainless, LP (2011).  For a more detailed discussion on how third-parties are protected by the law, check back to see further blog discussion on our website.