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Sexual harassment

Jane Doe v. Assembly/Silver and Boxley

Jane Doe, a New York State Assembly aide, alleged that James Michael Boxley, chief counsel for Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (D-Manhattan), used his power to exploit the plaintiff, drug her at a work-related outing, and repeatedly rape her in her own apartment in 2003. According to the plaintiff, Boxley offered to assist in her political aspirations through a "mentorship program," and as a participant in such, she "would need to act less self-confident and more respectful and deferential towards him." Boxley was later indicted on four felony counts of rape, and pursuant to his plea agreement, entered a guilty plea to one count of sexual misconduct. This charge resulted in a misdemeanor plea, probation, a $1000 fine, and a court order to remain out of contact with the plaintiff.

DerOhannesian & DerOhannesian represented Jane Doe in a civil suit together with representation by Hillary Richard of Brune and Richard in Manhattan, that was later brought against Boxley, Silver and the Assembly of the State of New York. Associated with the suit was a former Assembly staff member who was also sexually assaulted by Boxley in 2001. This victim chose to pursue her case through internal proceedings in the Assembly in lieu of a criminal complaint. Silver declared his support for Boxley, believing that Boxley would be "completely exonerated" and that the case would be dismissed. Boxley faced no repercussions due to this complaint and denied the claims of this alleged victim.

DerOhannesian & DerOhannesian argued that because of the employer's failure to take action against negligence of Silver and the Assembly, Jane Doe was victimized by Boxley, who was known to prey on young, impressionable women in the Assembly. The Assembly and Silver were sued under the New York State Human Rights Law, which requires that places of employment implement an adequate policy regarding sexual harassment complaints. DerOhannesian & DerOhannesian presented sufficient evidence that proved Boxley was clearly responsible for the creation of a hostile work environment for the plaintiff, and that the Assembly failed to provide a proper mechanism to review and investigate sexual harassment complaints and did not issue the necessary discipline to the employee who engaged in or initiated the misconduct. Subsequently, DerOhannesian & DerOhannesian argued that Silver knew of the hostile environment Boxley created, failed to prevent further harassment caused by Boxley, did not take prompt and corrective action once a complaint was filed, and did so even though he had the proper authority to prevent and/or correct the issue.

The suit was resolved in favor of the plaintiff, who demonstrated clear emotional and psychological distress due to Boxley's actions and the Assembly's and Silver's lack of proper discretion. As a result of DerOhannesian & DerOhannesian's stalwart pursuance of the case, the plaintiff was awarded over one-half million dollars and obtained changes in the policies and procedures in the NYS Assembly for the handling of sexual harassment complaints.