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The Italian fashion designer Giorgio Armani must face possible personal liability for sexual harassment at a trial later this month, Judge Kimba M. Wood of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York ruled last week. Bonnie Solomon, who was the director of advertising at the Giorgio Armani Corp., for a little more than a year before being fired early last year, presented enough evidence that she had been let go because of her sex and that she was subject to a hostile work environment to survive a motion for summary judgment, Wood ruled in Solomon v. Giorgio Armani Corp., 99 Civ. 1838. Wood noted, however, that Solomon would have a “significant burden” in proving her case at trial because she conceded that apart from certain actions by Armani and another high-level executive at the company, the work environment at the company was “not hostile.” In addition, by her own accounting, Wood noted, Solomon had had limited contact with Armani: during three trips to Italy and on three occasions in New York. Even though Solomon had alleged several instances of harassing conduct, including one situation in which she said Armani called her “a difficult whore” in Italian, those incidents standing alone would not be enough to make out a case of sexual discrimination, either through harassment or her firing, Wood noted. But, the judge added, it would be inappropriate to dismiss the case on a motion for summary judgment because Solomon claimed to have been subjected to “constant humiliation” in addition to the specific incidents alleged. Among the allegations that might be construed as supporting a harassment finding were the following: � Armani hugged Solomon in a “macabre” fashion different from the manner in which he hugged men in the office. � Armani taunted her during a meeting when he was unhappy with her, stating, “Bonnie cazzo cazzo Bonnie.” The word “cazzo” translated into English means “penis,” according to Solomon’s legal papers. � The chief executive officer of the Armani corporation, Pino Brusone, rubbed her shoulders and said suggestively, “Bonnie sexy sexy Bonnie sexy.” Under the federal civil rights statute, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, no claim of personal liability could be asserted against Armani, Wood wrote. Wood noted that the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has construed the statute as aimed only at “employer-entities.” But, she added, no such similar limitation exists in either the New York State or New York City anti-discrimination statutes. Under both the city and state laws, she explained, personal liability can attach if a supervisor personally engages in the discriminatory activity. Solomon was represented by Nehemiah S. Glanc and Aaron Richard Golub. Armani and the Armani Corporation were represented by Traycee Klein and Frances Maloney of New York-based Epstein, Becker & Green.

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