New York State Harassment Settlements

Over the past decade, New York State has spent over $11 million settling claims by workers who alleged sexual harassment, assault, or discrimination against state employees. According to WGRZ, state agencies, universities, and colleges settled 84 of these cases in court from 2008 through 2017. Robert Boreanaz, a senior partner in the Labor and Employment practice area at Lipsitz Green Scime Cambria, represented one of these claimants. He spoke to WGRZ about her case and how sexual harassment claims are handled in the public and private sectors. The full story is available on the WGRZ website and by watching the video below.

How harassment claims are handled

Mr. Boreanaz explained to WGRZ the various types of harassment his client faced in her state-run workplace in Chautauqua County “because she was a woman seeking to improve her position in a job.” He told WGRZ that his client “was threatened. She got locked in a cooler. She had rats put in her locker. She had feces put on her overalls.” Mr. Boreanaz went on to say that, when someone in the private sector is accused of sexual harassment or assault, the evaluation and punishment process “is done quickly, usually with somebody who has some independence in evaluation.” He explained that this “would not happen with the state.”

State process for handling claims

When asked about the Cuomo administration’s 10-step process for investigating complaints within 30 days, implemented in 2013, Mr. Boreanaz responded, “I think that’s probably lip service. Yeah, they maybe changed a few words here and there and updated the directive, but [they] haven’t made any meaningful changes in my opinion.” He explained that claims within the state are rarely dealt with quickly or appropriately, saying, “It lingers for a while. The supervisor then notifies the accused, the accused gets knowledge of it beforehand, the accused talks to coworkers. The accused has got his or her team assembled for what they’re going to say to investigators or how they’re going to react to things. Nothing is done quickly in the state.”

What can be done differently

WGRZ then asked Mr. Boreanaz what Governor Cuomo could do differently in order to improve how New York State handles these sexual harassment claims. “The Governor can actually have more people involved in the processing and handling of sexual harassment complaints so that it can be handled quickly and efficiently,” he responded.

About Robert L. Boreanaz

Mr. Boreanaz, a member of Lipsitz Green Scime Cambria’s Labor and Employment Practice Area, focuses his practice on union-side labor law and plaintiff-side employment law. He has extensive trial experience, arguing before state, appellate, and federal courts.