Tuckner, Sipser Wins Sexual Harassment & Wage Theft Trial Against Subway Franchise

The Women’s Rights in the Workplace Lawyers at Tuckner, Sipser won a jury trial on February 9, 2015, under the NYC Human Rights Law on behalf of Aleka Albert, who was fired from her minimum wage job when she was 17 years old after she complained of sexual harassment and abuse at the hands of her supervisor.

Jack Tuckner, William Sipser, and Gat Carmi persuaded the 6 jurors in State Supreme Court in Brooklyn that Aleka Albert had been sexually harassed by her supervisor, Isa Khalid, who commented on Aleka’s breasts on her first day of training, and it only got worse from there, as he continued hitting on her and sexualizing her for the several weeks she lasted working as a “Sandwich Artist” for two Subway fast-food restaurants in Brooklyn, NY until she was fired in retaliation for filing a harassment complaint with the NYS Division of Human Rights. Her mother, also a Subway employee has fired soon after.

The two Subways, owned by Emmanuel and Uchenna Onuaguluchi, argued that Aleka was never fired, that she was sent home from work for wearing “inappropriate” pants, and that she never returned, a silly defense that the jury promptly rejected as nonsense after deliberating for only 3 hours. The jury also found Defendants liable for violating NY’s Labor Law by paying Aleka only $6.00 an hour, $1.25 less than the New York minimum wage in 2011. Aleka won more than $25,000 in back pay and emotional distress damages, and the jury awarded her double damages for the Defendants’ willful failure to pay her the minimum wage. Aleka was also awarded $50,000 in punitive damages for the Defendants’ malicious and reckless conduct, as they deliberately interfered with her civil rights under the NYC Human Rights law as an undocumented woman.

Defendants were also found liable for discriminating against Aleka because of her citizenship status, as she was threatened with deportation if she filed the harassment complaint, and after her illegal firing, she was evicted from her apartment and was separated from her mother, who was forced to seek employment in other states, and then ultimately had to leave the country.

Unfortunately, Aleka will likely never see a penny of the jury award, as these same Subway owners have other court judgments against them, including owing nearly $800,000 to the People of the State of New York for stealing wages from hundreds of other low-wage employees working in one of their 6 Papa Johns restaurants in New York City, and Aleka’s at the back of the line. Read the actual order and judgment describing the many ways this married couple cheated their workers, who are already struggling to survive on a non-living wage (while working for a multi-billion dollar transnational brand); the last thing they need is to get cheated and stiffed by their own bosses, owners who wouldn’t even spring for the bill to clean their workers’ uniform.

Next time you find yourself ordering a buffalo chicken footlong in one of the 43,035 restaurants Subway owns in 108 countries, consider that the Subway corporate parent based in Milford, CT. is doing just fine, thank you very much, but it doesn’t give a rat’s patootie about its franchise employees, providing zero human resource help or protection from severe sex discrimination.

Do you have an employee rights question or concern? Contact Jack Tuckner at [email protected] or Deborah O’Rell at [email protected], or contact us here.