Café Lalo, the restaurant featured in the 1998 film, “You’ve Got Mail,” is at the center of a $26 million lawsuit filed by 13 former female employees who allege that the manager used the establishment as his “personal dating service.” According to the lawsuit, the manager, Daniel Reyes, created a hostile work environment through sexual harassment, and the owner, Haim Lalo, paid unfair wages. Each former employee is seeking $2 million in punitive and compensatory damages.
Federal law, New York state law and New York City human rights laws expressly prohibit workplace harassment on the basis of race, sex, religion, age, disability and national origin. New York actually has far more protections for employees in such cases. For example, while federal law bars harassment based on age when the employee is over 40, New York outlaws age-based harassment of any employee over 18. In addition, federal law on workplace harassment is limited to businesses with 15 or more employees, or 20 in age-related cases.
The state of New York, on the other hand, considers businesses with as few as four employees under its workplace harassments laws. The state also offers protection from harassment based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
A hostile work environment is one in which employees are exposed to pervasive harassment that they have to put up with seemingly as a condition of employment — the conduct is so frequent that it comes to seem a regular part of the work environment at that particular establishment. The harassment and other offensive conduct must generally be considered sufficiently awful that a reasonable person would regard the workplace as hostile, abusive or intimidating.
If you believe you’ve been subjected to a hostile work environment due to harassment based on race, sex, religion, age or disability, you may be eligible for compensation under New York employment law. Speak with a skilled lawyer at the Derek Smith Law Group to learn more.
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