NYSHRL assigns personal liability to those who harass — Business Management Daily: Free Reports on Human Resources, Employment Law, Office Management, Office Communication, Office Technology and Small Business Tax Business Management Daily

NYSHRL assigns personal liability to those who harass

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Having trouble finding the best way to explain to employees that it’s in their best interest to maintain a harassment-free environment? Try this persuasive sentence:
    Co-workers who participate in discriminatory conduct can be held personally liable for damages.
    Or explain it this way: If co-workers name-call, harass or otherwise discriminate against another co-worker, their assets—house, car and personal possessions—are on the line.
    Now see if they don’t start paying closer attention during harassment and discrimination training.
    Recent case: Matten George, an Indian national, is a bus operator for the New York City Transit Authority. For years, he has complained to supervisors that he had been harassed and even roughed up. Two co-workers, in particular, have given him endless grief, especially since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.
    George claims he has been the victim of a persistent barrage of ethnically offensive comments, including being referred to as bin Laden, Saddam Hussein, camel jockey and caveman.
    He finally sued his employer under both Title VII and the New York State Human Rights Law (NYSHRL), and added the co-workers to his complaint.
    The federal court hearing his case refused to dismiss the personal liability claim against George’s co-workers. The judge concluded that a co-worker who “actually participates in the conduct … may be held liable under NYSHRL even though that co-worker lacked  the authority to hire or fire the plaintiff.” (George v. New York City Transit Authority, et al., No. 04-CV-3263, ED NY, 2007)
    Final note: Slurs against those perceived to be of Arabic or Middle Eastern origins have increased dramatically since Sept. 11. Don’t let them infect your workplace. Include national origin slurs among the examples you use in your training sessions. 

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