Talk 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.
- 31% of the female workers reported they had been harassed at
- 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