How a New York Actress Overcame a Producer and Film Company's Effort to Dismiss Her Sexual Harassment Case

After you've experienced sex/gender discrimination or sexual harassment at work, you probably have many questions about pursuing (and winning) a legal case. Before you make any major decisions about pursuing, not pursuing, or settling your claims against those who harassed or discriminated against you, be sure to consult an experienced New York City sexual harassment lawyer who can provide you with essential advice and insight related to your case.

One thing harassment or discrimination might worry about is being denied her day in court. A recent sexual harassment case from here in New York City provides helpful knowledge about what the law does (and doesn't) require of victims to defeat a motion to dismiss filed by the defense.

The alleged harassers were D.P., a Long Island film director, and the film company he created. The alleged victim, K.B., was an actress who performed in some of the company's films.

In April 2023, the actress sued the director and the film company for sexual harassment, gender discrimination, and retaliation. Two weeks later, the defense filed a motion asking the judge to dismiss the case.

A Standard that Favors the Party Who Sued

The defense was unsuccessful. The actress's successful outcome on this motion is a reminder that, in New York, the law erects a "liberal construction" standard for plaintiffs' lawsuits at the motion-to-dismiss phase, meaning that you, as a sexual harassment victim, have only a low hurdle to clear. As the judge explained, the court must give "the plaintiff the benefit of every possible favorable inference" and after doing so, if the lawsuit "can manifest any cause of action," the defense loses their motion to dismiss.

In her sexual harassment and gender discrimination claims, the actress alleged that the director and film company targeted" her female characteristics for sexual harassment, and on account of her status as a woman altering the terms and conditions of her work, creating a hostile work environment. interfering with her ability to carry out her work duties, and ultimately terminating her employment."

The law in New York says that a sexual harassment victim must, in her civil complaint, assert that she was a member of a protected group, that she was "subject to unwanted sexual harassment," and that the harassment alleged occurred because of the victim's sex. A sex/gender discrimination claim must allege that the victim was a member of a protected class, that she suffered adverse treatment at work, and that her sex/gender played a role in that treatment.

For a viable retaliation case under the New York State Human Rights Law, the victim must assert that she "engaged in a protected activity," that her "employer was aware" of the activity that she suffered an "adverse employment action," that the adverse action was based on the activity, and that "there is a causal connection between the protected activity and the adverse action"

The New York City Human Rights Law creates a slightly different standard for retaliation. The NYCHRL, like the NYSHRL, requires the victim to assert that she engaged in protected activity of which her employer was aware, and a "causal connection" between the two. Unlike the NYSHRL, the NYCHRL requires the victim to allege that the employer's actions were "reasonably likely to deter a person from engaging in that protected activity."

The actress's complaint asserted that the film company and the director retaliated against her for "complaining about discrimination by redoubling their efforts to create a hostile work environment based upon sexual harassment, by attacking and undermining her professional reputation, and by terminating her employment." The film industry has been one of the industries exposed as having widespread sexual harassment, as people in power use that power to extract favors and benefits from vulnerable actors, actresses, and other workers.

According to the judge, what this actress alleged was sufficient to maintain her three causes of action. The actress's success shows that you don't always need a lot of allegations, you just need the right allegations. To make sure your discrimination and/or harassment case has everything it needs to give you the best opportunity to hold accountable those who harassed you, talk to the skilled New York sexual harassment attorneys at Phillips & Associates. Sexual harassment and sex/gender discrimination are wrong and if you've encountered them at work, you're entitled to seek justice. You can contact our experienced attorneys online or by calling (833) 529-3476 to set up a free and confidential consultation and get us working for you.

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