NEW YORK, Jan. 20, 2016 /PRNewswire/ -- Sanford Heisler Kimpel, LLP, today filed a $1,000,000 complaint against Jamaica Colosseum Mall (JCM), also known as the Colosseum, Inc., a large retail complex in downtown Jamaica, Queens. The complaint alleges that two supervisors of the mall's cleaning and security staff sexually assaulted, threatened, and stalked one of their employees, Sandra Douglas, as she tried to perform her job duties. When Ms. Douglas complained, the mall fired her.
"No employee should have to choose between enduring repeated sexual assaults and losing the job that feeds her family," said Jeremy Heisler, Founding Partner of Sanford Heisler Kimpel's New York office and an attorney for the employee. "Employers have a duty to provide a safe working environment free from sexual assault."
The lawsuit explains that Ms. Douglas, 51, the only female member of the maintenance crew, regularly endured egregious harassment at the hands of two male supervisors at JCM. According to the Complaint, Ms. Douglas's direct supervisor, Tito Bonilla, trapped Ms. Douglas in the women's restroom on an almost weekly basis. There, out of public view, he would grope her, and, on two occasions Mr. Bonilla forced his penis into Ms. Douglas's hands. When Ms. Douglas forcefully resisted these assaults, Mr. Bonilla threatened her, telling her, "[i]f you say something, you are going to get fired."
Ms. Douglas was the sole caretaker of two grandchildren.
The Complaint further alleges that two months into her employment at JCM, the supervisor of JCM's security team, Jean Petigny, also began to sexually harass Ms. Douglas. According to the Complaint, Supervisor Petigny would rub his penis and testicles while stalking Ms. Douglas and would recount the sexual acts that he wanted to perform on Ms. Douglas in graphic detail. Supervisor Petigny did all of this while carrying a firearm and drinking alcohol on the job. Although many at JCM knew of Supervisor Petigny's actions, the Company did nothing to address it.
"The conduct that Ms. Douglas has endured is outrageous," said Russell L. Kornblith, Senior Litigation Counsel at Sanford Heisler Kimpel. "In the modern workplace, the discrimination that we see is often subtle. What we have here is as subtle as a sledgehammer," he continued.
When the harassment and degradation perpetrated by Mr. Petigny became unbearable, Ms. Douglas complained to JCM. But rather than fire the men who had harassed Ms. Douglas, barely one month later, JCM fired Ms. Douglas.
Ms. Douglas's experience does not appear to be unique. Ms. Douglas observed that all managerial and supervisory roles at JCM are held by men, and one of her male colleagues warned her, "Women don't last long."
Sanford Heisler Kimpel is interested in speaking with other employees at JCM who may have knowledge of discriminatory practices. "Working women face many challenges," said David Sanford, Chairman of Sanford Heisler Kimpel. "This firm is committed to ensuring sexual harassment is not one of those challenges."
Ms. Douglas seeks back pay, front pay, compensatory and punitive damages totaling more than $1,000,000, as well as attorneys' fees, costs and expenses. She is represented by Jeremy Heisler, Russell L. Kornblith, and Melinda Koster from Sanford Heisler Kimpel's New York City office. The Complaint names as defendants JCM, General Manager Thomas Logan, Supervisor Tito Bonilla, and Supervisor Jean Petigny.
About Sanford Heisler Kimpel, LLP
Sanford Heisler Kimpel, LLP is a national public interest class-action litigation law firm, which has offices in Washington, D.C., New York, San Francisco, and San Diego. Sanford Heisler Kimpel is committed to protecting the rights of individuals in employment discrimination, wage and hour, qui tam, and other civil rights matters. The firm has extensive experience in complex class action litigation, having successfully represented thousands of individuals in major class action cases in the United States. The firm also represents select individual clients such as executives, lawyers in employment disputes, and whistleblowers. The firm has recovered over $1 billion for its clients. For more information, visit www.sanfordheisler.com or contact Sanford Heisler Kimpel at (646) 402-5650.
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