On Monday, July 16, 2018, a U.S. District Judge for the Eastern District of New York awarded Wigdor LLP client Elaine Gutierrez a total award of over $1.34 million in damages in a sexual harassment and retaliation case against New York’s so-called “Taxi King,” Evgeny “Gene” Freidman and his company Taxi Club Management, Inc.
In January 2017, Wigdor LLP filed a sexual harassment lawsuit on behalf of Ms. Gutierrez, a former accounts payable manager and assistant to the “Taxi King.” Ms. Gutierrez alleged that Mr. Freidman subjected her to a constant barrage of sexually harassing comments and egregious bullying throughout her employment, including making explicit comments about her body (both in private and in front of groups of associates), throwing papers on the floor and forcing Ms. Gutierrez to pick them up, and on occasion harassing her in front of her ten-year-old daughter. Ms. Gutierrez repeatedly objected to and complained about the inappropriate behavior, including to Chief Financial Officer Andreea Dumitru Parcalaboiu, but was told, “You get paid, so just deal with it,” according to the lawsuit. As alleged, Ms. Gutierrez was eventually terminated in a blatant act of retaliation for speaking out against the harassment.
Mr. Freidman, who once owned over 800 taxi cab medallions, recently pled guilty to tax fraud and agreed to pay $1 million in restitution to the State of New York. Now, Taxi Club and Mr. Freidman must pay over $1.34 million in damages, including $850,000 in punitive damages, $130,000 in emotional damages, $295,032.19 for economic losses, and attorneys’ fees and costs. In a separate order, a U.S. Magistrate Judge ordered Mr. Freidman to pay sanctions in connection with “exceptional vulgarity and disrespect” towards the Court and opposing counsel.
Statement from Lawrence M. Pearson, Partner at Wigdor LLP:
“Ms. Gutierrez is very pleased that the Court has formally adopted the recommendation and granted judgment against Mr. Freidman and his company. In the #MeToo era, the message is clear: no one, not even the so-called ‘Taxi King,’ is above the law when it comes to workplace sexual harassment. The award of $850,000 in punitive damages in particular shows that employers face serious consequences for harassment and retaliation, and that the law recognizes the need for and will uphold strong punishment and deterrence of inexcusable, abusive conduct like that of Mr. Freidman.”