A sexual harassment lawsuit against the state Assembly by two alleged victims of former Assemblyman Vito Lopez has been dismissed on technical grounds.
Acting Supreme Court Justice Joan Kenney (See Profile) of Manhattan held that the plaintiffs failed to establish that the Assembly itself was their employer and that it aided and abetted Lopez’ alleged misconduct. However, Kenney left the door open for the women to file a new complaint against the state or Lopez.
Burhans and Rivera v. Assembly, 155232/13, arose from allegations that the Brooklyn politician sexually harassed two female staffers. Lopez resigned last year after the Joint Commission on Public Ethics issued a report concluding that he had harassed at least eight staffers, including the plaintiffs in this case.
The plaintiffs alleged that since the Assembly as a body failed to address prior sexual harassment complaints made against Lopez, it aided and abetted his conduct.
But Kenney said in a decision dated March 7 said the Assembly itself was not the women’s employer, that there is no evidence that anyone other than Lopez had the authority to hire or fire the plaintiffs and that the chamber is not a proper party to the suit.
Manhattan attorney Kevin Mintzer, who represents the plaintiffs, said “the Assembly and the state are unquestionably my clients’ employers and we expect to demonstrate that with further submissions to the court.” Michael DeLarco of Hogan Lovells, counsel for the Assembly, was not immediately available for comment.
A parallel federal case, Burhans v. Lopez, 13-cv-3870, is pending in the Southern District.