The team of NYC sexual harassment lawyers at the Derek Smith Law Group have just learned about a new lawsuit filed Tuesday 12/2 in a New York court. A Queens high school principal has been accused of harassing a science teacher because of her sexual orientation. Workplace sexual harassment is, of course, illegal in New York City.
Long-time city teacher Marie Catenacci identifies as being a lesbian, according to her harassment suit. This didn’t stop her boss, John Bowne High School principal Howard Kwait, from allegedly making unwanted sexual advances towards her, asking Catenacci to go home with him after a retirement party, and asking if she had any romantic interest in her female co-workers
After she made it clear that she had no interest in him, Kwait launched a campaign of retaliation, yanking some of her teaching responsibilities and undermining her with colleagues, the suit alleges.
Kwait’s legal troubles do not stop there. He has been hit with another suit this past Tuesday from former subordinate Sally Maya. Maya alleges that Kwait disparaged her in front of other staffers after becoming pregnant and taking maternity leave.
Both Maya and Catenacci quit their posts and no longer teach in the New York City public school system.
Is lesbian sexual harassment illegal in NYC? What about pregnancy discrimination?
As you may or may not know, sexual orientation harassment in the workplace is illegal in New York. Interestingly, whether or not you are actually gay, straight, lesbian, or bisexual does not actually matter. The law covers “perceived or actual” orientation – so if you are harassed for being gay, but you do not identify as being gay, your harasser could still be found guilty.
Unfortunately, the New York City sexual harassment attorneys at our firm know all too well about the horrors of sexual orientation sexual harassment. We won a $1.6 million verdict on behalf of Mirella Salemi in 2012 – the largest employment law verdict in the state for that year. Salemi is an open lesbian, who was sexually harassed for years by her boss. Salemi’s boss forced her to attend weekly prayer meetings against her will and told her she was “going to Hell” for being gay.
Pregnancy discrimination is also illegal – and certain employers are required to make certain accommodations for maternity leave. Women should never have to be concerned about losing their job or being harassed for taking protected leave.
Women who assert their rights in their NYC workplace should not be made to live in fear. Our NYC attorneys are here to help. The Derek Smith Law Group, PLLC handles a multitude of cases that involve sexual harassment in Manhattan and the greater New York City area. For further information, please feel free to call us at 800-807-2209 for a free consultation.
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