STATE COURT JUDGE ALLOWS DISCRIMINATION SUIT AGAINST TOWN OF HAVERSTRAW TO PROCEED

BY LEGAL LARRY

State Supreme Court Judge Linda Jamieson recently ruled that a sexual discrimination suit brought by a Town of Haverstraw employee will proceed to trial. Cheryl Croci, a long-time employee of the Town of Haverstraw, filed a lawsuit claiming damages for years of abuse she allegedly endured while working in the town’s highway garage. The lawsuit names the Town of Haverstraw and a co-worker of Croci’s named Steven LoBlanco, as defendants.

According to court papers, Ms. Croci and LoBlanco were good friends for many years. She would watch Mr. LoBlanco’s daughter, help him with personal errands and be a sounding board on issues. However, in 2003, their relationship changed when LoBlanco allegedly made sexually remarks and advances toward Ms. Croci in the garage. Although she insisted the conduct stop, plaintiff alleges that it did not. Ms. Croci is the only woman working in the garage.

Eventually, plaintiff filed a formal complaint with the Town. After filing the complaint, Plaintiff alleges the conduct did not stop, and in fact continues to date. Plaintiff alleges that the town has not prevented the conduct and failed to stop the conduct that creates a hostile work place. In her lawsuit, plaintiff alleged violations of both federal and state laws that protect against gender based discrimination and hostile workplace.

The town and LoBlanco’s lawyers made separate motions asking Judge Jamieson to dismiss the lawsuits against each of them. The town argued that plaintiff failed to comply with federal law by filing of an administrative complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) or the New York State Division on Human Rights, which is a condition required before filing a lawsuit. LoBlanco’s attorneys argued that he could not be held liable under state law since he was a co-worker of Ms. Croci’s and the law only applies to employers.

In her ruling, Judge Jamieson agreed that plaintiff failed to file a complaint with the EEOC and dismissed the claim under federal law. However, Judge Jamieson refused to dismiss the case, holding New York State Law protected Ms. Croci. Judge Jamieson held that actions against “a co-employee who is alleged to have actively aided and abetted the employer in acts prohibited under [State Law]” may be maintained. Judge Jamieson’s ruling is not meant to infer that the Town or LoBlanco are in fact liable, just that the case may proceed to trial after pretrial disclosure is completed.

Plaintiff is represented by Gillian E. McGoey, Esq. of Elmsford, New York. According to plaintiff’s lawyer, both the Town of Haverstraw and Mr. LoBlanco will have to answer to a jury for the conduct plaintiff had to endure for year. In a telephone interview, Ms. McGoey said “I find it incomprehensible that the town has allowed this conduct to continue even after Ms. Croci filed a formal complaint, met with the town and its representatives and has documented her claims. This is the exact type of conduct that prompted the law to be created in the first place and it is truly unfortunate that a woman has to be subjected to discrimination for simply going to work and providing for her family.”

Furthermore, Ms. McGoey stated that there is a pending criminal case against Mr. LoBlanco stemming from similar conduct against Ms. Croci. That case is being prosecuted by the Rockland County District Attorney’ Office. Telephone calls to the attorneys representing the town and the employee were not returned. Tell us what you think. Leave a comment below and share your thoughts with other readers.