New York Employment Law Firm Prevails on Behalf of Client, Wins 1.6M Award for Sexual Orientation Discrimination Case

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New York employment law attorney Derek T. Smith of the Derek T. Smith Law Group, P.C. successfully pursued a sexual orientation discrimination case on behalf of a Manhattan chef claiming her former employer harassed her for being a lesbian, winning her a total of 1.6M in damages

He (Globakar) not only threatened her soul, but he also threatened her livelihood. He thought praying might cure her of her sexuality, but she did not need to be saved.

Derek T. Smith Law Group, P.C., a law firm that pursues cases involving discrimination, employment, and sexual harassment in New York City won a large jury award on behalf of their client, Mirella Salemi, against the owner of Mary Ann’s Mexican Restaurant in Tribeca, Edward Globakar. For her claims of emotional distress, loss of employment, and other damages, a New York Supreme Court jury awarded her $400,000 for pain and suffering and an additional $1.2M in punitive damages.

According to the transcript of the case, No. 117115/2007, Salemi, a chef and manager of the restaurant from 2002-2007, was subjected to discrimination based on her Catholic religion and sexual orientation as a lesbian, and suffered harassment, constructive discharge, and retaliatory actions.

“He (Globakar) not only threatened her soul, but he also threatened her livelihood,” said attorney Derek Smith. “He thought praying might cure her of her sexuality, but she did not need to be saved.”

The verdict report for Case 117115/2007, Mirella Salemi v. Gloria’s Tribeca, Inc. (d/b/a Mary Ann’s), et al, clarifies the harassment that Salemi faced on the job from 2004, when Globakar converted to Pentecostal Evangelical Christianity, up until she left in 2007. Every Wednesday, Globakar would lock the doors of the restaurant and force all the employees, including Salemi, to attend a prayer service from 3p.m. to 5p.m. that was conducted by members of his church. During that service, Globakar and his pastor would condemn homosexuality. In addition, according to the verdict report, Globakar handed out religious paraphernalia at work and used slurs against homosexuals on a regular basis. He allegedly told Salemi to become more “effeminate” in her behavior and clothing, get married to a man and have children, or else she would go to hell.

Salemi told the jury that she repeatedly asked Globakar to stop disparaging her sexual orientation and forcing her to attend services for a religion that she didn’t practice, but he refused, threatening her employment if she didn’t attend church or change her sexuality.

Two former co-workers corroborated Salemi’s testimony about the goings-on at Mary Ann’s and the treatment Salemi experienced. Also according to the verdict report for Case 117115/2007, Globakar himself testified that he regularly closed the restaurant for church meetings and considered homosexuality a sin “on par with murder,” and that being gay was “immoral, abnormal, unnatural, and similar to a mental illness,” and as such could be “cured” by prayer. The only witness Globakar’s defense team produced was an employee who had worked for Globakar for 18 years, who testified that he was loyal and would not do anything to hurt his boss.

In 2007, Salemi, who was also a 10 percent owner in the restaurant, was constructively discharged and quit in 2007 when she stated she “could not take the abuse anymore.” The verdict report notes that she suffered multiple damages, including emotional distress, depression, developed a facial tic, fear of leaving her home, and loss of desire to continue her career as a chef. In addition, discrimination lawyer Derek Smith demonstrated that Salemi deserved punitive damages based on the number of comments made to her over time, the severity of the defendant’s actions against her, and the fact that the company that owns Mary Ann’s also owns seven other restaurants employing 175 people, yet never had an anti-discrimination policy. Attorney Smith stated that Globakar therefore acted with reckless disregard deserving of punitive damages.

The verdict report in Case 117115/2007 shows that the jury agreed. They awarded Salemi a total of $1.6M, $1.2 of which represented compensation for punitive damages.

About Derek T. Smith Law Group, P.C.

The Derek T. Smith Law Group, P.C. legal team provides aggressive representation of clients involving all types of NY employment law, including sexual harassment and discrimination in the workplace. They specialize in litigation involving all aspects of employment regulations and discrimination law. The firm’s employment attorneys can also protect the rights of clients who experience retaliatory or wrongful termination after filing a complaint. Their experienced, seasoned litigators are ready to fight for and protect the rights of employees throughout New York City. The firm offers close, personal attention to all client issues, with each employment discrimination case involving race, sex, religion, or age personally managed by one of the lawyers. For questions about discrimination in the workplace, or to discuss a specific concern, contact the Derek T. Smith Law Group, P.C. for a free initial consultation.

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