In December 2013, a victim of sexual harassment–a man–filed a charge with the EEOC, alleging that working in Autozone’s Whiteville, North Carolina store, a female coworker:

created a hostile work environment based on Complainant’s gender . . . by . . . pinching Complainant’s buttocks, twisting his nipples, and rubbing his crotch, and making statements like, “I’m sorry, I’m just used to doing that to my boys.”

In about late March 2013, the victim began complaining to his supervisor, AutoZone’s Manager of Commercial Sales, as well as AutoZone’s Assistant Manager. After the victim discovered they did not take his complaints seriously, he made recordings documenting management’s failure to act:
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Employers are obligated to act promptly when they learn about ongoing workplace sexual or racial harassment. When employers ignore workplace harassment, the public will find out. Media coverage is an important tool for exposing and fighting workplace racism and sexism.

Media attention typically motivates employers to act quickly to remedy racial harassment to show the public that they take these issues seriously. An employer that acts promptly to correct the situation, in the face of this negative media attention, has an opportunity to foster a culture of tolerance, and potentially, to avoid liability for the harassment. However, when employers have knowledge of harassment and fail to act in the face of media coverage, their lack of concern for the victims of the harassment will be showcased for the public.
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DemandsGraphic.pngFriedman & Houlding LLP routinely seeks production of e-mail, texts and video that contain racially and sexually offensive words and images, sent by managers. These are the same managers charged with enforcing the employer’s discrimination and harassment policy. More often than not, we find these same managers are downloading offensive material, and emailing the material to others at the employer. Courts have held this evidence admissible on whether the employer had an effective anti-harassment policy, the bias of those charged with enforcing the alleged anti-discrimination policy, and whether managers were negligent in responding to complaints.
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Friedman & Houlding LLP has a multi-disciplinary approach to civil rights advocacy. We believe civil rights have never been won solely or even primarily in court. Public struggle is protected activity under civil rights statutes and the First Amendment, and the press coverage of employer NY Post 7-15-13 McQueen Ibela.pngdiscrimination may serve as the modern-day equivalent of the sit-in or other demonstration. Employers often view the threat of a jury verdict, or the cost of a settlement, as a cost of doing business (often covered by insurance), and fail to correct the problem that caused the lawsuit. That is why our firm always issues a press release when we file a case, which usually results in newspaper and/or television coverage.
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My town has wonderful open-minded people and great schools. It’s, a lovely community. So, the fact that young, African-American woman, had to bring a lawsuit against a local restaurant for employment discrimination, tells you that racial discrimination can rear its ugly head anywhere.

Abby, who is African-American, and Becca, who is white, are friends. This took place when they were seniors in high school. Becca was leaving her position at the Japanese restaurant where she worked as the Greeter. She had promised her manager she would bring someone in to replace her. When she introduced Abby to her manager, he said he could not use her because she was black. Abby filed suit for race discrimination, represented by Friedman & Houlding LLP.

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At the same time she filed suit, the she organized a protest in front of the restaurant, which was reported in the press. Some of the signs carried by the protesters called for a boycott.

As the NY Post reported, Stanley Katz, the “Upper West Side landlord who knowingly employed a child rapist as his building super will cough up $2 million to settle . . .” this sexual harassment lawsuit. super sleaze.JPG

Friedman & Houlding LLP represented the victims in this sexual harassment suit, working together with federal prosecutors. In the settlement, the defendants consented to a Court Order prohibiting Stanley Katz from managing his buildings, prohibiting all defendants from sexually harassing tenants in the future, and requiring meaningful procedures for tenants to report any future sexual harassment. The victims in the case, including Ms Engle who was photographed for the Post article, showed enormous courage and determination, by facing down their child rapist super and landlord. As Preet Bharara, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York noted, “The $2,058,000, agreement represents the largest recovery ever in a sexual harassment suit brought by the United States under the Fair Housing Act.”

As reported in Vermont Today, Michael Davis, a former corrections officer for the state of Vermont, has filed a lawsuit against the state’s Department of Corrections alleging sexual harassment, discrimination based on disability, and retaliation. The lawsuit, filed by sexual harassment attorneys Friedman & Houlding LLP, on June 23, 2011 in the U.S. District Court for Vermont, seeks damages for Davis’ emotional distress and lost wages, as well as punitive damages.

prison09282011.jpgThe lawsuit describes the facts of the case as follows:

Davis began working for the Department of Corrections at the Southern State Correctional Facility in Springfield, Vermont in 2005. In 2007, an inmate punched Davis in the groin. A year later, Davis was still experiencing pain in his groin area, so he took a two-week leave from work. He returned to work in January 2009 still in pain, and he found the beginning of a pattern of harassment and abuse that would continue until he left his employment there. First a supervisor e-mailed Davis information on sexually-transmitted diseases, which he took as a reference to his groin pain. Soon after, he received as e-mail with a photograph of a nude male doll holding its groin area. Subsequent e-mails included photographs showing Davis’ face placed on nude male bodies and other images Davis found highly offensive.
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A civil rights lawsuit has received some assistance from the federal government. The United States Department of Justice has filed an amicus brief in a lawsuit brought by racial discrimination attorney Joshua Friedman on behalf of a group of Michigan high school students.

The plaintiffs, all of whom are black at a high school where only about 3% of the student body is black, endured a constant pattern of insults, abuse, and harassment from other students based on their race. This included insults, threats, physical altercations, and vandalism of the students’ property. The plaintiffs complained to teachers and school administrators but received little to no support. The school enacted a racial discrimination policy in 2005, but the harassment continued.
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Five women have intervened in a lawsuit brought by the United States attorney general against Stanley Katz and William Barnason for sexual harassment constituting multiple violations of the Fair Housing Act. The women, who are represented by New York sexual harassment attorney Joshua Friedman, were residents of apartment buildings in Manhattan’s Upper West Side owned by Katz. Barnason served as superintendent of the apartment buildings.

The Today Show reported on this story in February 2010 and interviewed several of the residents who intervened in the lawsuit:

The government’s lawsuit alleges that Barnason engaged in a years-long pattern of behavior that created an atmosphere of sexual hostility and harassment for the buildings’ female residents. Katz is alleged to have ignored this conduct at best and facilitated it at worst. Living under conditions of near-constant harassment, the lawsuit says, constituted discrimination under the Fair Housing Act and deprived the residents of their rights to the property protected by that law. While the attorney general’s lawsuit is brought on behalf of the American people, the claim brought directly on behalf of the residents may allow them to present their case and recover damages directly.
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NYC00061.09142011.jpgThe U.S. Department of Justice has filed a lawsuit against Stanley Katz, the owner and manager of three apartment buildings on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, and William Barnason, the former superintendent of those buldings. The suit alleges violations of the Fair Housing Act in the form of an ongoing and pervasive campaign of sexual harassment and sexual assault against multiple female residents of the apartments over a period of years.

Barnason is a Level III registered sex offender who served fourteen years in prison for the sexual assault of several children and one adult. Katz employed Barnason as the superintendent of at least three apartment buildings for several years. The lawsuit complains of an atmosphere of sexual harassment fostered by both Katz and Barnason, and of specific acts of sexual harassment and even assault committed by Barnason.

Barnason is alleged to have demanded sexual relations with female residents in exchange for ordinary maintenance services, reductions in or forgiveness of rent, or even simply cessation of verbal abuse. Several residents allege that Barnason drugged a female resident and attempted to take her to a vacant apartment late at night until another resident intervened. Both defendants are said to have engaged in frequent verbal harassment of residents, referring to them as “hookers” and “whores.”
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