For more information please call  800.727.2766


Is New York Hypocritical in Its Claims to Protect Sexual Harassment Victims?

The New York Times is reporting that the state of New York is trying to evade responsibility for acts of harassment against its employees.

Alexis Marquez worked as a principal court attorney for New York State Judge Douglas Hoffman for one month. She was paid by the state of New York and identified the state as her employer on her tax returns. While working for Judge Hoffman, Marquez alleges that he asked her to eat lunch with him every day, suggested that she sit closer to him, and told her inappropriate stories regarding pornographic film stars and extramarital affairs. One weekend, Judge Hoffman sent an email to her personal account about her work performance. She responded with gratitude but also asked that he not contact her on the weekends or through her personal account. He berated her at work the following week and recommended that she transfer to another judge. She tried but could not find a position. Within a few weeks, she was fired through a notice from the courts’ human resources director.

Just this year, New York has passed laws making it easier for employees asserting claims of workplace harassment to bring those claims forward. However, in response to Marquez’ lawsuit, the state is claiming that Marquez was not an employee of the state. Instead, the state asserted that Marquez was an employee of the judge. According to the New York Times, the state has repeatedly used this argument to evade responsibility for discrimination claims in cases involving government officials, lawyers for the state or various branches. This argument arises out of a Title VII exception that carves out the “personal staff” of elected officials from the law’s protections. It should be noted that Judge Hoffman was appointed to his position. New York has successfully used this argument on behalf of politicians facing allegations of harassment. Both New York State and the Unified Court System deny they were Marquez’ employer. A ruling has not yet been issued on the case.