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Sexual Harrasment at New Rochelle's City Hall Creates Hostile Work Environment

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Sexual Harrasment at New Rochelle's City Hall Creates Hostile Work Environment

May 21, 2009 - 13:25
14 comments

B65CCA3E-98C5-461F-977F-E4977BDC8CA4.jpgTalk of the Sound has learned that a junior employee in the City School District of New Rochelle's Finance Office has repeatedly engaged in unwelcome and inappropriate sexually based behavior towards a senior department supervisor creating what has been described by one source familiar with the case as "a hostile work environment".

Kareem Ali, a clerk working on the 2nd floor at City Hall under Assistant Superintendent John Quinn, has been subject to repeated disciplinary action for unwanted contact between him and a female co-worker, a supervisor in the Finance department. Ali is restricted to certain parts of City Hall and is not permitted to pass beyond the men's bathroom in the 2nd floor hallway. He is required to go through an elaborate set of intermediaries to communicate with the supervisor to prevent further direct contact. He is not permitted to e-mail his supervisor directly. All communications, written and verbal, are passed to the supervisor thru another staff member. Despite these precautions, problems persist.

Ali has been "spoken to" by school district officials many times over a period of years but has been "unable to control himself", sources say. A disciplinary hearing several years ago, involving then-Finance Chief Tom Ryan and F.U.S.E., the teachers union, resulted in a unique set of work rules for the clerk. During the hearing, the District took the unusual step of having a guard posted nearby the hearing room. Many workers at City Hall have reported feeling uncomfortable with Ali.

Despite the precautions, Ali has continued to engage in what has been described as "obsessive" behavior in order to maintain indirect contact with his supervisor. For example, Ali has the option to use the interoffice mail system but instead prefers to call a staff member to pick up documents then asks questions about the supervisor. He often calls the staff member who receives his emails intended for his supervisor moments after the email is sent to ask whether the supervisor has responded.

Sexual harassment is a form of gender discrimination which violates Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. According to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, sexual harassment can occur in a variety of circumstances, including but not limited to the following:

  • The victim as well as the harasser may be a woman or a man. The victim does not have to be of the opposite sex.
  • The harasser can be the victim's supervisor, an agent of the employer, a supervisor in another area, a co-worker, or a non-employee.
  • The victim does not have to be the person harassed but could be anyone affected by the offensive conduct.
  • Unlawful sexual harassment may occur without economic injury to or discharge of the victim.
  • The harasser's conduct must be unwelcome.

Employers were made more liable for sexual harassment of their employees following a 1998 Supreme Court ruling. In order to avoid liability, employers must take corrective action. Ali's continuing problematic conduct raises serious questions about whether the district's actions have been sufficient and whether the District may have opened itself up to significant liability for sexual harrasment claims by current and former District employees as well as anyone who claims to have been affected by the offensive conduct.

When the problems with Ali first surfaced, the supervisor tried simply avoiding Ali, eventually going so far as to move her desk within her office so that she would not be in his line of sight, even partially closing her door so he could not look over his shoulder at her. After that and other steps proved insufficient, charges were filed resulting in the hearing.

John Quinn took over the Finance Department two years ago and under his watch the problems continued, resulting in an investigation by Assistant Superintendent Margaret Pecunia, head of personnel services.

Following the Ryan hearing, Ali was moved to Civil Service Personnel but after Quinn was hired, Ali was promoted to a new position which required more frequent contact with the supervisor. He lasted there only a few weeks after repeatedly engaging the supervisor with "nonsense questions" in what was perceived to be an ongoing attempt to be in close physical proximity to her.

School officials declined to comment.

Statistics

  • 31% of the female workers reported they had been harassed at
    work
  • 7% of the male workers reported they had been harassed at work
  • 62% of targets took no action
  • 100% of women reported the harasser was a man
  • 59% of men reported the harasser was a woman
  • 41% of men reported the harasser was another man

Of the women who had been harassed:

  • 43% were harassed by a supervisor
  • 27% were harassed by an employee senior to them
  • 19% were harassed by a coworker at their level
  • 8% were harassed by a junior employee

There are 14 Comments

Robert Cox's picture

You can always tell when a Talk of the Sound story really strikes a nerve. The comments sections are suddenly devoid of the usual school district apparatchik trolls. The truth hurts, doesn't it?

As the trolls stew and thrash about let me make an observation that might even give them pause. Why is it more important that one bad employee retain their job at the expense of everyone else who has to deal with them? This goes for the guards hitting the students, the teachers who mail it in and this guy who has been a disruptive presence in City Hall for the last few years.

Silent for now, they had to go see the man behind the curtain so he can tell them what to say. (remember, sheep follow the herd, they can't think freely for themselves)

A wise man once told me not to argue with fools, because people from a distance cant tell who is who. Lets deal with facts and remove all else. Any corporate structure has to make viable investigations into any sexual harassment allegation or they are liable whether or not the allegations are true or false. If they do not take the allegations seriously they are negligent. Once the proper parties are contacted and information is gathered they must make an informed decision. Afterward steps must be taken to secure the accused and the accuser if no determination can be concluded. Where does Mr. Cox get his facts or how does he prove true the validity of this statement?? Next question, is Mr. Cox so closely in tune with the details of the case that he can make such broad character assassination?? Or are their other motives? I'm sure his answers to these questions are i am being helped or someone is speaking through me or that i may even be Mr. Ali himself. I find his behavior truly distasteful for he may be truly making a falsely accused individual a victim twice!! So I ask you the readers of these blogs that give out opinions so fast or are so easily swayed by people comments that have no knowledge of the situation whatsoever WHAT IF THAT WAS YOUR HUSBAND OR YOUR SON???? EVERY STORY HAS TWO SIDES but truth is always just that TRUTH.

SIGNED A GOD FEARING MAN

And a wise man also said....
there once was a man who thought he was better than me..and he was..until he had that thought!!

-
As a frequent commenter on this site, this post (in addition to the sexting story), has left me stunned and speechless.

My only comment at this moment is to offer the victim support and to let her know that the amount of perseverance and strength she must have needed to endure this situation for so long is admirable. My hope is that you will not have to be subjected to this any longer.

For this man Robert Cox to post this story without any supporting facts smearing someone based on what? Obviously if this were true the employee would of been fired already. Mr. Cox should be careful because he can be sued for slander.

There are numerous things wrong about this article nor does Mr. Cox know this employee who if got a promotion wasn't such a bad employee nor knows who recommended that promotion. Maybe there's silence because people move on from situations and have an eye on more important things or they don't deem it necessary to respond. Shock loses it's value so if you have a goal against railing against the district, which appears to be targeting specific people, it would be better to focus on that greater goal or run for the board and make a change yourself in how the district operates...Let people live and get off your high horse and let go of a drama no one is interested in partaking in and maybe that's the reason for the silence...Let it go

Robert Cox's picture

...feel free to explain the "numerous things" that are wrong about this article. Yawn.

I don't even know what to say about your idea that this person is somehow otherwise a good employee. That appears to be absurd on its face.

What does it say about the mindset of the apparachniks who come to this site that they are always so preoccupied with defending the bad actors and show absolutely no concern for the good, honest, hard-working employees that those bad actors impact in trying to do good for the children and people of New Rochelle. Does it not ever occur to them that leaving these sort of people on the payroll lowers morale, makes the school district an unpleasant place to work and drives out exactly the sort of people we want to keep while keeping exactly the people we want to keep out.

It sure is a through the looking glass world over there at the City School District of New Rochelle

One that 'has been "spoken to" by school district officials many times over a period of years but has been "unable to control himself".

Unable to control himself?!
Is he a two year old learning how to potty train?!
Were those four words quoted from a job performance review? Were they given as an excuse for him? Was that his defense in his own words?
Unable to control himself?!
Those four words are equal to the following four words: a ticking time bomb!
Do we need to wait until someone is physically harmed?

If you are trying to defend him, why didn't you state that he is a good employee instead of saying he isn't 'such a bad employee'? That sounds like the 'wrong' endorsement.

'who if got a promotion wasn't such a bad employee nor knows who recommended that promotion'
- you're trying to say, "Why would he have gotten a promotion if he was such a bad employee?"
Well, maybe he didn't really deserve the promotion.
-especially since
'He lasted there only a few weeks after repeatedly engaging the supervisor with "nonsense questions".'
It's not bad enough he's causing people to feel uncomfortable at work, he's also wasting taxpayer money with his 'nonsense questions.'

Maybe, you don't want to hear it. But I sure do. I find all the information on this website, VERY INTERESTING.

Are you the kind of person who would sacrifice your wife's dignity so the school board doesn't lose some "clerk"? Maybe your daughter would like some of mr Ali's "special attention".It's obvious the board won't take serious action because they fear a lawsuit from the EEOC. Doesn't matter if what he did is true or not, once he plays the race card, it will wind up costing the district tens of thousands of dollars just to defend a rightfull termination action.

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