Phillips & Associates

Cuomo Charges and Marjorie Mesidor Interview

Trial Lawyers for Sexual Harassment by the Powerful

Recently, Governor Andrew Cuomo’s own Attorney General ordered a 165-page investigative report. It found the governor had sexually harassed 11 women. All but two of the women were current or former state employees. The investigators reviewed 74,000 pieces of evidence including communications that memorialized the allegations. The governor denied any wrongdoing and claimed that the incidents were only misunderstandings. As we’ve seen since the beginning of the #MeToo movement, sexual harassment is too often protected by employers. Workplaces are often made uncomfortable for workers with protected characteristics by those who hold more powerful positions. However, workplace sexual harassment is prohibited across the state. If you were harassed based your sex, our experienced New York sexual harassment lawyers may be able to represent you in a lawsuit for damages against your employer. We are aggressive and experienced. Our record of success allows us to carefully evaluate the value of prospective clients’ claims. Call us for a free consultation if you suspect you’ve been harassed.

Sexual Harassment in New York City

Governor Cuomo apologized for bad jokes and certain gestures, but claimed they were innocent or old-fashioned. Additionally, he claimed the report was biased. Recently, one of the partners at Phillips & Associates, Marjorie Mesidor joined Wake Up With Cheddar for an interview related to the harassment investigation of Governor Cuomo. Ms. Mesidor stated the governor’s reaction to the investigation was full of excuses and was hard to follow. Ms. Mesidor explained that his intent not to sexually harass or make others feel uncomfortable was not controlling when interpreting the situation. She observed that Governor Cuomo’s release of a video, like this one, was striking and represented a common move made by legal defense teams during a sexual harassment claim; to emphasize the value of accused to the organization.

In connection with the harassment accusations, the governor deflected by mentioning a number of unrelated issues and implied that he had done a good job handling the COVID-19 pandemic. He implied he should be excused for his behavior; so he could continue his work. Ms. Mesidor, who has litigated many sexual harassment claims, explained that his statements jibed with the narratives of powerful people caught perpetrating sexual harassment. Often the powerful who sexually harass are valuable to the companies for which they work.

Ms. Mesidor expressed that it is infuriating as a plaintiff’s attorney, who frequently represents people who have been sexually harassed, to hear that the value of someone and his job is worth more than the hostile work environment or the ruin made of these individual’s lives.

Ms. Mesidor was asked whether the governor would keep his job if he were working in the private sector if the same allegations were made. Ms. Mesidor answered that employers routinely settle claims while failing to discipline harassers at all. Each situation has to be evaluated on its own merits, but quite often, when people are accused of workplace sexual harassment, it comes to light that they have harassed others before. Yet, private employers continue employing those harassers.

Ms. Mesidor pointed that, by law, an employer only needs to be reasonable in its response to substantiated accusations of discrimination or sexual harassment. The law doesn’t require the person to lose his or her job. However, during the #MeToo movement, there were examples of private employers who separated themselves from harassers. That had not been the norm in the past. These examples, however, were why the movement was important. When private employers began to impose accountability by removing the accuser it demonstrated a shift in values. It at least seemed, that these employers were concerned with the immorality of the harassers’conduct and the harm they had caused. These types of employment decisions remain, however, unusual.

The report included 179 witnesses. References to testimony from transcripts specify it was recorded by a stenographer under oath. The governor was interviewed for 11 hours. Ms. Mesidor found the degree of detail remarkable. Generally, reporting is vague in a highly political situation. Inappropriate comments or touching accusations are mentioned in generic terms. However, in this case, there were specific dates and times for the harassing conduct. These included disturbing actions such as touching of the victims’ buttocks and forced kisses.

Bringing a Sexual Harassment Lawsuit in Civil Court

The criminal burden of proof for sexual harassment related charges is higher than the civil standard for damages. Ms. Mesidor explained whether criminal charges are brought hinges on the weight of the evidence and whether the district attorney wants to assume the risks involved in prosecuting a highly public person. In the case of the allegations against Governor Cuomo, the report and number of witnesses would be helpful to prosecuting such a case.

Generally, in civil suits, sexual harassment can include any unwelcome conduct based on sex including touching, pranks, groping, and remarks of a sexual or offensive nature that are based on sex. Civil lawsuits for damages arising out of sexual harassment can be filed under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the New York State Human Rights Law, and the New York City Human Rights Law. Generally, Title VII applies to employers that have at least 15 employees. It is enforced by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and damages are capped. Moreover, it needs to be established that the harassment was severe or pervasive, which can be a high standard to meet.

However, the state law and city law prohibit sexual harassment regardless of the size of the employer. They define harassment in a way that is more protective of workers. Additionally, the state expanded its protections against sexual harassment to cover independent contractors, patrons and vendors. An employer can be held accountable when it sexually harasses a nonemployee who is a patron, providing services under contract or works for a subcontractor or certain other entities providing services.

Hire Seasoned New York City Legal Counsel to Represent You

It is crucial to retain an experienced New York City law firm when you believe you’ve been sexually harassed by your employer. At Phillips and Associates, we represent victims of harassment in companies located in Manhattan, Queens, the Bronx, Brooklyn, Staten Island, Suffolk County, and Nassau County, among other places. Fill out our online form or contact us at (212) 248-7431.

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