Hamptons Laundry Worker Sexual Harassment Case Left Intact

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: October 3, 2014

CONTACT: John Garcia, Director of Communications, 212-739-7513, 917-673-9095 or jgarcia@latinojustice.org.

Hostile work environment and sexual harassment claims will go forward against Suffolk Laundry Services, Inc., a commercial laundromat in Southampton, NY, a New York federal court has ruled.

The court ruled that there is sufficient evidence that the work environment at Suffolk Laundry was hostile to female employees and that the owners, Cathy and Walter Sullivan, Jr., could be held individually liable for the unlawful discrimination.

LatinoJustice PRLDEF and lawyers from Outten & Golden LLP represent seven former employees who brought sexual harassment and hostile work environment claims in violation of federal and state anti-discrimination laws against Suffolk Laundry and its owners in early 2012, joining a lawsuit brought by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) as a result of the same charges.

The workers are seven women formerly employed at Suffolk Laundry who filed charges of discrimination with the EEOC on January 19, 2011. The plaintiffs allege they were discriminated against based on their gender and subjected to unwanted touching, inappropriate comments, and lewd gestures by their supervisor.

Last fall, defendants moved for partial summary judgment in an attempt to get rid of the claims of six out of the seven intervenors, and to avoid the personal liability of the owners for the claims. The court denied both and will allow the claims of all seven women to go forward.

“Our clients pursued this case because they wanted to send a message to employers that all workers – including low-wage, female workers with limited English proficiency – are entitled to a workplace free from gender discrimination,” said Elizabeth Joynes, an attorney for LatinoJustice PRLDEF. “Employers who fail to provide adequate policies to prevent discrimination and lack procedures for employees to report harassment will be held responsible for violations in their shop.”

In court documents, the defendants admitted that once they received the complaints from employees, their investigation of the claims was not “formal,” “didn’t last long,” and explained that they did not “want to make a hoo-ha of it.” Women and men worked in separate areas of the facility, and defendants permitted the alleged harasser to remain in an area where he continued to harass other women even after the claims were filed, according to plaintiffs.

The defendants are Suffolk Laundry Services, Inc. and its owners, Cathy and Walter Sullivan, Jr.

Attorney Christopher McNearney, of Outten & Golden, stated, “We are proud to be working side-by-side with LatinoJustice to represent these brave women in their fight for justice.”

The case is “Equal Employment Opportunity Comm. et al. v. Suffolk Laundry Services, Inc. et al.,” Case No. 12-cv-00409 in the U.S. District Court, Eastern District of New York.

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