Ex-Club Worker Nabs $2.7M Jury Win In Harassment Suit

A New York jury recently awarded $2.7 million to a former nightclub manager in a sexual harassment suit against the club’s owner.

Night club bar

ByDani Alexis Ryskamp, J.D.

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Published on January 26, 2024

Night club bar

The jury sided with Maria Jose Pizarro on claims that Pizarro faced a hostile work environment and employment discrimination during her job as a manager of Euros El Tina, a New York City Nightclub

What Happened in the Case

Pizarro began working at Euros El Tina Restaurant Lounge and Billiards Corp as a general manager in 2010. She served as general manager of the club until she was fired in November 2019.

During her tenure as the nightclub’s general manager, Pizarro said, she faced repeated sexual harassment by the nightclub’s owner. She provided several examples, such as repeated incidents in which the owner would grab her breasts or press his genitals against her body. She also said he often left the bathroom door open, despite repeated requests by Pizarro to close it, resulting in the owner exposing his genitals to Pizarro and anyone else outside the bathroom.

In one 2019 instance, Pizarro stated that the owner began masturbating in the bathroom with the door open. Pizarro said she had to close the door to continue working at her desk, which was just a few feet from the bathroom door. Pizarro also faced repeated comments about her bathroom use, comments about the owner having sex with other female employees, and gifts like perfume and underwear.

Pizarro noted that she consistently rejected the owner’s advances and repeatedly asked him to behave in a more appropriate way, such as by closing the bathroom door.

In November 2019, Pizarro was terminated from her general manager job. She sought legal help, only to find herself facing two retaliatory lawsuits filed by the nightclub. Pizarro filed her lawsuit in July 2020.

The Jury’s Verdict

In 2021, the defendants filed a motion to dismiss on the basis of Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) and 12(b)(6). In October 2022, Judge Alvin K. Hellerstein of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York dismissed the motion for 12(b)(1) dismissal, finding his court had appropriate subject matter jurisdiction. The judge granted the motion to dismiss on 12(b)(6) grounds for certain claims, including claims of religious discrimination, certain Title VII claims against individuals, and the Section 1981-based claims. However, the judge allowed the rest of the claims, including hostile workplace and sex discrimination claims, to proceed.

After hearing evidence at trial, a federal jury awarded Pizarro $2.7 million on her federal Title VII and New York City Human Rights Law claims, including claims that the owner created a hostile work environment and engaged in illegal discrimination.

“After suffering in silence for years, my client’s voice was finally heard and justice prevailed,” said Evan Craig Brustein of Brustein Law PLLC, an attorney representing Pizarro. Pizarro was also represented by Mark Ashton Marino of Mark A. Marino PC.

Takeaways for Attorneys

One claim dismissed due to the defendant’s 12(b)(6) motion was a claim by the plaintiff that she had faced religious discrimination. The claim was based on an incident relayed by the plaintiff in which the nightclub owner had taken her Bible and thrown it in the trash.

The court found that this one incident failed to establish a repeated pattern of behavior sufficient to support a claim of religious discrimination, and dismissal for failure to state a claim was therefore proper.

On the hostile workplace and sex discrimination claims, however, the plaintiff had ample evidence to establish a longstanding pattern of behavior - both repeated behaviors such as the nightclub owner touching her breasts and leaving the bathroom door open, and repeated patterns of behavior like making sexual comments about other employees and giving the plaintiff inappropriate gifts.

These patterns are essential to support discrimination claims. They’re also essential to showing the jury both the pattern of harassment a plaintiff faces and the mental and emotional toll such harassment takes over time. Jurors who clearly see the onus that constant harassment places on a plaintiff can better understand the need for a verdict that accounts for the damage done.

About the author

Dani Alexis Ryskamp, J.D.

Dani Alexis Ryskamp, J.D.

Dani Alexis Ryskamp, J.D., is a multifaceted legal professional with a background in insurance defense, personal injury, and medical malpractice law. She has garnered valuable experience through internships in criminal defense, enhancing her understanding of various legal sectors.

A key part of her legal journey includes serving as the Executive Note Editor of the Michigan Telecommunications and Technology Law Review. Dani graduated with a J.D. from the University of Michigan Law School in 2007, after completing her B.A. in English, summa cum laude, in 2004. She is a member of the Michigan State Bar and the American Bar Association, reflecting her deep commitment to the legal profession.

Currently, Dani Alexis has channeled her legal expertise into a successful career as a freelance writer and book critic, primarily focusing on the legal and literary markets. Her writing portfolio includes articles on diverse topics such as landmark settlements in medical negligence cases, jury awards in personal injury lawsuits, and analyses of legal trial tactics. Her work not only showcases her legal acumen but also her ability to communicate complex legal issues effectively to a wider audience. Dani's blend of legal practice experience and her prowess in legal writing positions her uniquely in the intersection of law and literature.