New York City Sexual Harassment News: Transit Workers Union Official’s Ruling Overturned by Appellate Court

In a victory for New York City sexual harassment victims, a panel of five appellate judges has overturned an arbitrator’s ruling that led a Transit Workers Union (TWU) official to avoid disciplinary charges, our NYC attorneys have learned. In 2012, Tony Aiken worked as a bus operator when Tulani Melendez, a dispatcher at the Kingsbridge Bus Depot, accused him of sexual harassment. According to court record, Melendez claims Aiken made degrading comments towards her, such as if he had “a woman like that at home, I wouldn’t let her leave the house. I would stay in bed all day. I would oil her down.” In response, Aiken went off the Transit Authority Payroll and put on union payroll. He is the second vice chairman of the TWI’s Bronx Surface Division. This move protected him from discipline – according to an arbitrator and a lower court judge. However, now Aiken may face disciplinary actions thanks to the appellate courts’ ruling. Our NYC sexual harassment lawyers agree that letting anyone get away with sexual harassment make already vulnerable victims afraid to speak up.

Sexual Harassment: Sexual Innuendo, Comments, Jokes, and a Hostile Work Environment

While some people might think sexual jokes and come-ons are funny in the workplace, those on the receiving end are left to feel vulnerable, intimidated, and threatened. For Melendez, she was forced to endure a steady stream of inappropriate comments on the job, which may have interfered with her work performance and personal life. According to the New York City and state law, as well as federal law, there are two types of sexual harassment: quid pro quo and hostile work environment. Melendez’s case is an example of a hostile work environment. In most cases, some offhand teasing and isolated comments aren’t enough to equal a hostile work environment. To legally constitute a “hostile work environment,” the behavior must:

  • Involve inappropriate and disparate treatment
  • Negatively affect the terms, conditions or privileges of your work setting
  • Be discriminatory in nature

Hostile work environment is about the cumulative behavior or a person or persons at work – in other words, how their conduct affected you over time. Unlike other forms of discriminatory behavior, it doesn’t end in a very concrete action, such as being fired or not being hired at all. So, for example, a co-worker subjects you to a constant barrage of sexual comments and “jokes.” He asks you on dates repeatedly, despite your rejection. He asks you invasive questions about your sex life. You complain to your supervisor, but no action is taken against your harasser. You start missing days of work, you have trouble concentrating at work, and you are afraid interact in social situations because your harasser has beaten down your self-esteem. This may be an example of a hostile work environment. If you are successful in a hostile work environment claim, you could be entitled to compensation for lost wages, emotional distress, legal fees, and additional damages. Ask your NYC sexual harassment attorney for more information about your specific claim. To learn more about your legal rights, speak with a New York City, New Jersey or Philadelphia sexual harassment lawyer at the Arcè Law Group today. Our group of seasoned sex discrimination and harassment attorneys offers free initial consultations to victims. We are here to fight on your behalf, even when you feel you don’t have a voice. Call today at 212.248.0120.

By Bryan Arcé | Published August 24, 2015

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