A New York federal judge refused Wednesday to toss hostile work environment claims from Suffolk Laundry Services Inc. workers who said they were repeatedly sexually harassed, leaving intact a case being pursued by several women and the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
U.S. District Judge Margo K. Brodie also rejected a claim from the commercial laundry's owners — Walter and Cathy Sullivan — that they couldn't be held individually liable for the hostile work environment claims leveled in the intervenor complaint the current and former workers lodged in March 2012, less than two months after the EEOC brought the suit.
Elizabeth Joynes, associate counsel at LatinoJustice PRLDEF and an attorney for the intervenors, said that the discrimination claims of all seven women would be going forward and that they were ready for their day in court.
“Today the court confirmed that the owners cannot escape responsibility for permitting a workplace where female employees were routinely harassed by their supervisor,” Joynes said.
The women filed charges with the EEOC in 2011 alleging misconduct by mechanic Rajindra Singh, who was promoted to plant manager in 2010 and apparently still works at the laundry, the ruling said, adding that the plaintiffs claim they were not aware of any company policy addressing sexual harassment.
According to their complaint, the women were subjected to lewd comments and unwanted touching while they worked, and objections to that treatment drew retaliation. Judge Brodie's ruling said that there was enough evidence on the record to allow a reasonable jury to find “severe or pervasive conduct” and to determine that Suffolk can be held liable for Singh's conduct.
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The intervenor-plaintiffs are represented by Kathleen Peratis and Christopher McNerney of Outten & Golden LLP, and Elizabeth Joynes and Roberto Concepcion Jr. of LatinoJustice PRLDEF. The EEOC is represented by Adela Santos, Nora Curtin and Elizabeth Grossman.
The case is Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v. Suffolk Laundry Services Inc., case number 2:12-cv-00409, in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York.