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The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has sued a Queens law firm for sexual harassment, less than two years after the same firm settled a previous EEOC sexual harassment suit. In a complaint filed Wednesday in Brooklyn federal court, the EEOC alleges that, beginning around May 2003, the firm of Rappaport Hertz Cherson & Rosenthal allowed one of its employees to subject clerk Melissa Castillo to “persistent and frequent sexual harassment,” including unwanted verbal and physical conduct. “The sexual harassment culminated in an incident whereby such employee, who was present in Rappaport’s offices alone after work hours, deposited semen on Castillo’s phone,” the complaint states. The EEOC claims the firm took no action on Castillo’s harassment complaints, thereby constructively discharging her. She left the firm in August 2004. Eliot Cherson, a senior partner at Rappaport Hertz, said the firm categorically denied all the allegations made in the EEOC suit. “They are patently false,” Cherson said. He declined further comment. This is the second suit the EEOC has filed against Forest Hills, N.Y.-based Rappaport Hertz, which specializes in real estate law. In September 2002, the agency sued the firm, which has 17 lawyers and around 30 other employees, on behalf of three female employees, including one lawyer. That suit alleged partners and other lawyers at the firm “subjected female employees to lewd comments, looks and gestures on a daily basis and to pornographic images maintained and displayed on computers in the office.” Michelle Caiola, the EEOC lawyer handling the suit filed yesterday, said the employee who harassed Castillo was another clerk at the firm, not a lawyer or supervisor. “But the people in charge, who were responsible for making sure there was no sexual harassment, are the same,” said Caiola. Rappaport Hertz and the EEOC settled the previous suit in December 2003 with a consent decree in which the firm agreed to pay $50,000 to former associate Rabbia Ashraf, post remedial notices throughout the office and provide training on anti-discrimination law to all employees. The consent decree also enjoined the firm from further sexual harassment or discrimination. Wednesday’s suit charges that Rappaport Hertz is in contempt of the consent decree’s injunction and asks the court to issue appropriate sanctions and remedies. The EEOC is asking for back pay for Castillo as well as punitive damages on the grounds that Rappaport Hertz acted maliciously or with reckless indifference. Recovery by the EEOC under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act is limited to $50,000 for employers with fewer than 100 employees. Castillo’s private lawyer, Anthony Carabba of Carabba Locke, said yesterday that he planned to intervene in the case in the coming weeks, bringing state law tort claims stemming from the alleged sexual harassment.

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