On December 5, 2012, the New York Supreme Court entered judgment in Salemi v. Gloria’s Tribeca Inc. et al. against Gloria’s Tribecamex Inc., awarding the plaintiff damages in the principal amount of $1.6 million for violating the New York City Human Rights Law (NYCHRL). The defendants appealed the decision (claiming the awarded damages were grossly excessive) to the First Department Appellate Division of New York where it was affirmed on March 20, 2014.
Salemi v. Gloria’s Tribeca Inc. et al. arose from claims brought by Mirella Salemi (“plaintiff”), who worked as chef and manager at Mary Ann’s Mexican Restaurant in Tribeca, New York, that beginning in 2004; she was subjected to discrimination based on her religion and sexual orientation, as well as harassment, constructive discharge and retaliation. More specifically, the plaintiff alleged that the Defendants would tell employees to stop what they were doing at the restaurant, would be locked inside and forced to attend a prayer service from 3 to 5 p.m. During these services, church members as well as a pastor conducting the service would often say that all gays are going to hell. Despite the fact the plaintiff is lesbian, was often distraught from such services and requested to not attend, she was forced to be present at some 50 services each year from late 2004 until October of 2007 or else her employment would possibly be terminated. In addition to such services, the owner of Gloria Tribecamex, Edward Globakar (“Globakar”), would frequently call gay men “faggots” in front of her, regularly stated that lesbians and gay people are no good and “going to hell” and that Catholics (which is the plaintiff’s religion of choice) were inferior to Pentecostals.
In its appeal, the Defendants argued that the punitive damages awarded by the trial court was grossly excessive given that it instructed the jury to use what it claimed to be the incorrect and less restrictive standard of review “discrimination… beyond what is considered petty slights and trivial inconveniences.” see Williams v New York City Hous. Auth., 61 AD3d 62, 80 [1st Dept], lv denied 13 NY3d 702 (2009). The First Department disagreed with the defendants argument that the more restrictive “severe and pervasive” standard should be used as they stated in their decision:
In any event, the trial court properly protected Globokar’s First Amendment rights by instructing the jury that he had “a right to express his religious beliefs and practice his religion, provided that he does not discriminate against his employees based on religion or sexual orientation… Given the extensive evidence of defendants’ discriminatory conduct, we do not find that the punitive damages award was grossly excessive.
The Employment Lawyers at Fitapelli & Schaffer, LLP have successfully represented many Restaurant and other service workers for discriminatory conduct based upon their sexual orientation, religion, age, sex or race. If you have ever been discriminated against based upon your sexual orientation, religion, age, sex or race, please contact the lawyers at Fitapelli & Schaffer, (212) 300-0375, to schedule a free consultation – you may be entitled to receive compensation for your emotional distress, punitive damages and more.