A female NYPD officer has filed a sexual harassment lawsuit against the city, alleging that her supervisor, a male lieutenant, routinely harassed her for most of a year. The alleged harassment included lewd comments and text messages, indecent exposure, and requests for sex in exchange for work assignments. She brought the suit in New York State court after an internal affairs investigation of the lieutenant did not lead to any criminal charges.
Officer Shemalisca Vasquez, who was assigned to the Bronx Transit Task Force, alleges that the harassment began in February 2010. She and Lieutenant Ruben Caban were staking out the Elder Avenue subway station when, she claims, Caban exposed his genitals to her. According to her lawsuit, she responded by saying “Put that thing away.” This allegedly started a series of acts of harassment by Caban that continued for much of 2010. Vasquez claims that Caban tried to condition approving her requests for days off and giving her preferred shift assignments on her engaging in sexual activity with him. She also says that he sent her lewd text and email messages. Some of the texts and emails she allegedly received from Caban had graphic photos attached, including depictions of people engaged in sexual activity. Several messages contained close-up pictures of male genitalia. At least one genital photo, she claims, appeared to have been taken in a transit police command station.
Vasquez reported the matter to NYPD’s Internal Affairs Bureau (IAB). She turned over her cell phone so that IAB could analyze the text messages and other information. She also gave an interview to the Bronx County District Attorney’s Office. According to the New York Daily News, a female colleague advised Vasquez to take the matter to federal authorities rather than IAB, telling her that IAB “doesn’t help women.” An unusual feature of the story in the Daily News is Vasquez’s observation that the IAB commanding officer for the Bronx had a magnet on a refrigerator in his office that depicted a monkey eating a banana. Since at least one of the alleged e-mail photos depicted a banana and a penis with the words “Compare size,” Vasquez found the magnet upsetting. The IAB lieutenant reportedly apologized, and Vasquez’s lawyer described it as a feature of NYPD’s “frat boy culture.”
The IAB and the District Attorney did not bring any charges against Caban as a result of their investigation. This created, according to Vasquez, an even more uncomfortable work environment for her. Vasquez filed her lawsuit on August 15, 2012 in Bronx County Supreme Court. She named as defendants the city, Caban, the sergeant who advised her to go to federal authorities, and the IAB lieutenant who investigated her case. She is alleging sexual harassment, retaliation, and a hostile work environment in violation of New York state law and the New York City Code. Office Vasquez is asking for at least $30 million in damages.
The lawyers at Phillips & Associates represent victims of workplace sexual harassment and discrimination in New York City and surrounding areas, fighting to protect their rights at the municipal, state, and federal levels. To schedule a free and confidential consultation, contact us today online or at (866) 229-9441.