What Is the NYC Victims of Gender-Motivated Violence Protection Law?

Recent Court Ruling about Victims of Gender-Motivated Violence Protection Law

Recently, a New York Supreme Court, Appellate Division ruled on a Gender Motivated Violence Protection Act law case, which has potentially changed the legal landscape for employers.

The case was Breest v Haggis.

Details of the Victims of Gender-Motivated Protection Law (VGMVPA) Case

The plaintiff, a 26-year old publicist, Haleigh Breest alleged that film director and writer Paul Haggis’ violated New York City’s law, the Victim’s of Gender-Motivated Violence Protection Act.

This was the first time a plaintiff had applied the VGMVPA to a workplace harassment situation in New York City.

Haleigh Breest and Paul Haggis had both attended an NYC premiere party. The defendant offered to give the plaintiff a ride home and suggested they go to his apartment for a drink. The plaintiff suggested a public bar instead but the defendant insisted and the plaintiff agreed to go to his apartment. The case details the actions that the plaintiff alleges ended in rape.

The point being argued in the case was whether grounds existed to bring a case based on the VGMVPA. VGMVPA § 10-1103 Definitions states, “a crime of violence committed because of gender or on the basis of gender, and due, at least in part, to an animus based on the victim’s gender.”

The Supreme Court allowed the case to be heard under the VGMVPA when it ruled:

“Rape and sexual assault are, by definition, actions taken against the victim without the victim’s consent [FN11]. Without consent, sexual acts such as those alleged in the complaint are a violation of the victim’s bodily autonomy and an expression of the perpetrator’s contempt for that autonomy. Coerced sexual activity is dehumanizing and fear-inducing. Malice or ill will based on gender is apparent from the alleged commission of the act itself. Animus inheres where consent is absent.”

What Does This Ruling Mean for Workplace Sexual Harassment Cases?

The VGMVPA allows victims to bring civil lawsuits under a seven-year statute of limitations. It also allows them to seek punitive and compensatory damages. NYC employers are at significant financial risk in this type of case.

If you have employment related questions, our attorneys at Stephen Hans & Associates are glad to discuss your concerns.

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