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Boss ordered to pay $27,000 for sexual harassment

A New York home improvement store owner in Queens may be required to pay $27,000 for sending sexually harassing text messages to a woman who was briefly employed to work for him. The damages include $17,020 in back wages and $10,000 for her mental anguish.

The woman was hired in July 2013 to clean up work sites for the company. After having only worked a week, the woman's boss sent her a text message asking her why she didn't look as good while working as she did when she came to pick up her paycheck. She responded, also via text messaging, that his statement was inappropriate. Her boss then responded that she was fired. The next day, he sent yet another text in which he told the woman that he had never needed her to work, that he had simply created work for her and that what she got paid to do couldn't even be considered real work.

The woman filed a complaint with the state Human Rights Commission. The judge's ruling is a recommendation that the commission order the suggested fines.

People do not need to deal with unwelcome sexual advances while they are working. In the event a boss or a co-worker makes an unwelcome advance, people should report it to the company's human resources division and save all associated emails or text messages that were sent. If the company fails to take corrective action, the person who has been harassed may want to seek help from an employment law attorney. People should not simply wait and think the harassment will stop, as doing so may mean their motives may be later questioned for not coming forward earlier. An attorney might help by filing complaints with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the appropriate state agency in a timely manner.

Source: Gothamist, "Sleazy Queens Boss Faces $37K Fine For Allegedly Harassing Employee Over Text," Lauren Evans, April 18, 2015.

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