Lisa Zenzen Baker, 1961-2003


Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Hostile workplace alleged

Woman claims harassment at Troy
hospital forced her to quit her job

Lawsuit is among dozens against big advertisers
 that the newspapers have ignored - while similar
 claims against non-advertisers get stories

By David Baker
Posted June 24, 2014
599 words

A woman who worked in the emergency department at Samaritan Hospital in Troy, N.Y. has filed a lawsuit alleging that she was forced out of her job after she complained that a male employee was sexual harassing her, at one point showing her a video of himself having sex with another woman.

Patricia Cocozzo of Saratoga County alleges violations of New York’s human rights law, including discrimination because of her substantial hearing loss and her age.  She also alleges a hostile work environment, constructive dismissal, and retaliation for complaining about the alleged harassment.

According to legal papers, soon after Cocozzo, who is 58, began working at Samaritan Hospital she was taunted and ridiculed by younger co-workers because of her hearing impairment.

“Plaintiff’s immediate supervisor and team leader at Samaritan Hospital, Mary Komdat, served to create a hostile work environment along with others when she belittled Ms. Cocozzo because of her hearing disability,” a document filed in the Rensselaer County clerk’s office says.

Cocozzo alleges that during the spring of 2011 a male employee, Sean Garavelli, began sexual harassing her.

“Upon information and belief, Garavelli had sexual relations with another employee of defendant and openly discussed this incident at the work place and referred to this female in derogatory terms,” a legal paper says.

Cocozzo then complained to two supervisors, Judy Waldecki and Cindy Ciabotte, but allegedly nothing was done.

“The response was to put Ms. Cocozzo on a probation to see if she can adapt to her hostile work environment,” a legal paper says.

“Moreover, they told Ms. Komdat that Ms. Cocozzo had made complaints to them, which led to Ms. Komdat‘s increased ridicule and hostility towards Ms. Cocozzo.”

The suit says that Garavelli’s harassment of Cocozzo  continued. “... which included but was not limited to making offensive comments, rubbing Ms. Cocozzo’s shoulders, grabbing his groin area and overtly suggesting with his body movements that he and Plaintiff have sex.  These actions occurred over the course of several months in 2011 and 2012.”

The papers say Cocozzo was insulted and humiliated by the harassment.

“Garavelli’s sexual advances worsened over the course of 2011, and on or about March 2012, when Garavelli showed Plaintiff videos of him having sex with another woman.”

According to the suit, Cocozzo complained to both the defendant’s employee psychologist and its the human resource director.  “Plaintiff also tried to see defendants in early 2012, however she was unable to get an appointment.”

Cocozzo alleges that when she tried to transfer to a different department she was told by Ciabotte that she, Ciabotte, would make sure Cocozzo would not get another job.

“Soon thereafter, on or about March 2012, when Berger, Waldecki and Ciabotte failed to take any remedial action but instead, they forced Plaintiff to transfer to Albany Memorial when she would take a pay-cut.”

Cocozzo continued to work at Samaritan on weekends, where co-workers “… made fun of her hearing and were condescending and ridiculing to her in front of co-workers and patients,” the suit says.

In August 2012 Cocozzo resigned.

The suit seeks orders declaring that the alleged conduct is a violation of the state’s human rights law; recovery of lost past and future earnings; and compensation for pain, suffering, emotional distress and  humiliation, as well as medical expenses and attorneys’ fees.

The claim, which names Northeast Health and St. Peter’s Health Partners, was filed in state Supreme Court in Rensselaer County on May 5 by the Syracuse law firm Levine & Blit.  The case has not been assigned to a judge.  Documents that would show who is representing the defendant have not yet been filed.

A seach of newspaper archives and on Google produced no indication that the case has been the subject of a story.

Harassment also alleged in lawsuit against
 birthing unit in Samaritan Hospital. 
 Read that story HERE

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