Sexual harassment can include unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal and nonverbal harassment of a sexual nature. Although offhand comments and occasional teasing might not amount to sexual harassment, the law is clear that persistent and frequent harassment is unlawful where it creates a hostile or offensive work environment.
A federal jury has awarded $325,000 to a former NYPD police officer who claimed her superior, Lieutenant Denis McAuliffe, sexually harassed her. According to Officer Augustina Balu’s lawsuit, the sexual harassment lasted from 2005 to 2011, until Balu’s complaints to the NYPD prompted the department to move her. After being transferred to a unit that monitors surveillance camera feeds from Times Square, Balu retired, feeling as though her transfer was in direct retaliation for her having complained about the rampant sexual harassment.
The jury did not find in Balu’s favor on the retaliation claim; however, the jury did award $325,000 to compensate her for the sexual harassment. Although the sexual harassment appears to have been widespread and continuous, the NY Daily News highlighted some of the most egregious behavior. Specifically, McAuliffe made a habit of commenting daily on Balu’s choice of underwear. He would hover around her work station until he learned the color of her underwear, at which point he would make comments, including repeatedly telling her she needed more lingerie. He persistently asked Balu on dates; she always refused. And on one occasion, while driving her to her car after a work function, he allegedly threw himself at her and kissed her. She told him that she would be sick, and did in fact throw up. After she threw up, he is said to have popped a breath mint in her mouth and continued to kiss her.
McAuliffe denied the allegations. Evidently, the jury did not find him to be a credible witness, perhaps because he “could not remember” whether he had called the NYPD Transit Bureau a “sex fest,” or perhaps because he “could not recall” whether he had slept with more than ten female subordinates.