Jury Verdict Sends Message to Employers that Employee Sexual Harassment Claims Cannot be Ignored
October 28, 2022, New York, NY – A New York jury issued a significant verdict warning employers that sexual harassment is not only unacceptable; complaints in the workplace cannot be ignored.
In July 2018, The Derek Smith Law Group and attorney Zachary Holzberg, Partner in the firm’s New York City office, filed a Civil Rights Act complaint on behalf of Fortesa Qorrolli. The complaint, filed against Metropolitan Dental Associates, D.D.S., Dr. Paul Cohen, and Mario Orantes, asked the court to hold the company and its principal accountable for ignoring claims of sexual harassment within the workplace.
Ms. Qorrolli testified that she began working as a dental hygienist at Metropolitan Dental Associates, D.D. S. in December 2009. Mr. Orantes was her supervisor throughout her employment with the Metropolitan Dental Associates. Dr. Cohen owned and operated the dental practice at the time the incidents occurred.
Ms. Qorrolli testified she was an exemplary employee and received praise during her tenure at Metropolitan Dental Associates. However, she also testified she experienced consistent sexual harassment from Mr. Orantes.
According to Ms. Qorrolli’s testimony, Mr. Orantes made repeated unwelcomed sexual advances toward Ms. Qorrolli, all of which she said she turned down. As a result, Ms. Qorrolli testified that she experienced a continued hostile work environment.
Ms. Qorrolli complained to Dr. Cohen about this sexual harassment. However, she stated that Dr. Cohen ignored the complaints and continued business as normal. In May 2016, Ms. Qorrolli resigned from her position with Metropolitan Dental Associates due to the unrelenting sexual harassment.
Based on the evidence presented, the jury in the case determined Ms. Qorrolli suffered sexual harassment leading to a hostile work environment and Dr. Cohen did not do anything to stop it. As a result, the jury awarded Ms. Qorrolli $575,000 for emotional distress and $2 million in punitive damages.
Attorney Holzberg believed this award was justified and sent a message to employers across New York and beyond. “This award shows employers that they must act upon complaints of sexual harassment in the workplace. Otherwise, they will be held accountable and be forced to pay.”
Ms. Qorrolli and her mother, another employee of the dental practice, are involved in a separate action filed in New York Courts against the dental practice alleging unpaid overtime for employees.
The Derek Smith Law Group has been helping employees fight sexual harassment, discrimination, and unfair employment practices in the workplace for over 25 years. With offices in New York City, New Jersey, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Los Angeles, San Diego, and Miami, the lawyers of the Derek Smith Law Group can help employees from coast-to-coast fight sexual harassment, discrimination, and unfair employment practices.
Due to evidentiary issues, the Court has since ordered a new trial. In the second trial, the Jury again found that Mario Orantes, the office manager for Metropolitan Dental Associates, had subjected the Plaintiff to a hostile work environment under the New York City Law. The jury further found again that Dr. Paul Cohen and Metropolitan Dental Associates, DDS, 225 Broadway, P.C. are liable for that hostile work environment. The jury found that Plaintiff is entitled to nominal damages. Derek Smith Law Group, PLLC shall be appealing the Court’s decision to order a new trial and shall seek to reinstate the original $2.6 million jury verdict.