NYC Commission on Human Rights Issues a Decision Awarding over $400,000 in Damages to The Legal Aid Society’s Client and $250,000 in Civil Penalties to the City of New York

In Monica Cardenas v. Automatic Meter Reading Corp., The Legal Aid Society’s Employment Law Unit represented the complainant, a former office manager of a NYC based meter reading company.  Ms. Cardenas filed her case at the New York City’s Commission on Human Rights to seek a remedy for the egregious harassment that she suffered as an employee of Jerry Fund, the company’s sole owner.  

The allegations in the case involved discrimination based on her gender, the creation of a hostile work environment and the constructive discharge of Ms. Cardenas’ employment. After six days of hearings with lengthy testimony, numerous witnesses and corroborating evidence, on March 14, 2014, an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) with the NYC Office of Administrative Trials and Hearings recommended that the Commission on Human Rights award Ms. Cardenas backpay plus interest, front pay and compensatory damages totaling over $300,000 and award $75,000 to City of New York as a civil penalty for the violations of the New York City Human Rights Law.  The ALJ also recommended that the company institute a written anti-discrimination policy and train their staff on the Human Rights Law.

On October 28, 2015, the Commissioner of Human Rights adopted the ALJ’s Recommendation with a few exceptions and ordered over $400,000 in damages to Ms. Cardenas. The Commission readjusted Ms. Cardenas’ backpay and interest award to the date of the Commission’s decision, awarded five years of front pay damages instead of the three years that the ALJ recommended and affirmed the ALJ’s recommendation on emotional distress damages. The Commission also ordered training on the Human Rights Laws.  Significantly, the Commission ordered the company to pay a civil penalty in the amount of $250,000, the highest civil penalty ever issued by the Commission. The ALJ had recommended $75,000 in civil penalties against Automatic Meter Reading Corp.

We are gratified that the Commissioner ordered substantial damages in this case as Ms. Cardenas suffered a great deal having lived through the constant harassment over a three year period at the hands of Jerry Fund. We believe that the Commissioner’s decision sends a strong message to Jerry Fund and all employers that sexual harassment is not only unlawful but also potentially costly. We hope that the Commissioner’s award of damages acts as a deterrence to potential violators of the law.

After learning of the Commission’s decision, Ms. Cardenas expressed her thankfulness to the Commission for issuing the decision that they did and stated “Hopefully other employers will see this and it will prevent employers from doing the same”.

The New York City Human Rights Law is more expansive and favorable to victims of discrimination than its state and federal counterparts and this case is an excellent example of the employment discrimination that should be addressed by the City’s Commission on Human Rights.  

Staffing this case from The Legal Aid Society: Staff Attorney Amy Hong and Supervising Attorney Karen Cacace.