Monday, September 12, 2005

Case of Steven Frucht

Case of Steven Frucht
Yeshiva University Employee  - New York, NY

Accused by four women of sexually harassment and sexual misconduct of employees in the housekeeping department at Yeshiva University (YU). Steven Frucht was a supervisor, and has since been fired.  One survivor is quoted as saying "she was repeatedly asked for sexual favors in exchange for better work conditions".


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Table of Contents: 
  1. Sex Suit at Yeshiva U.  (09/12/2005)
  2. YU had a motion to dismiss which was unsuccessful   (03/10/2005)
  3. Yeshiva Faces Harassment Lawsuit  (09/202005)


Sex Suit At Yeshiva U
New York Post - September 12, 2005

A worker at Yeshiva University has sued the school and her former boss for $15 million in damages, saying she was repeatedly asked for sexual favors in exchange for better work conditions, court papers show.

Mellissa Lisbon is the fourth woman — all housekeepers — to file such a suit against the university and their supervisor, Steven Frucht, who has since been fired from his job, their lawyer, Joseph Marra told The Post.

Frucht would threaten their jobs if they refused to perform sexual acts for him, by saying, for example, "You want your job? . . . You gotta give me a b - - - job," Marra claims.

The women — "not the most educated" — were anxious to keep what they considered well-paying positions with benefits, according to the lawyer. But he declined to say whether any of them had actually performed sexual acts to stay employed.

Lisbon claims in the civil suit she filed recently at Bronx Supreme Court that after she was hired in August 2002, Frucht repeatedly propositioned her for sexual favors in return for better and more favorable work conditions.

She maintains that Yeshiva did nothing to prevent the "outrageous" conduct.

"They put the man in this position, to have this type of power and authority," her lawyer said. "He was able to run amok for quite a long time."

Frucht could not be reached. His lawyer did not return a phone call.

A spokesperson for the university declined to comment on the pending litigation.


YU had a motion to dismiss which was unsuccessful
(Alleged Survivors Name Removed), et al., Plaintiffs-Respondents, v. Yeshiva University, Defendant-Appellant, Steven Frucht, Defendant.



16 A.D.3d 185; 792 N.Y.S.2d 387; 2005 N.Y. App. Div. LEXIS 2440

March 10, 2005, Decided

March 10, 2005, Entered


COUNSEL: Clifton Budd & DeMaria, LLP, New York (George F. Brenlla of counsel), for appellant.

Joseph A. Marra, Yonkers (Vincent P. Fiore of counsel), for respondents.

JUDGES: Mazzarelli, J.P., Sullivan, Ellerin, Nardelli, Williams, JJ.

OPINION: [*186] [**388] Order, Supreme Court, Bronx County (Janice L. Bowman, J.), entered April 21, 2004, which denied the motion of defendant Yeshiva University (YU) to dismiss the complaint, unanimously modified, on the law, the causes of action for negligent hiring, supervision, training and retention of an unfit employee, for vicarious assault and battery, and for intentional infliction of emotional distress by YU, dismissed, and otherwise affirmed, without costs.

Plaintiffs are not obligated to arbitrate their employment discrimination claims because the collective bargaining agreement (CBA) does not clearly and unmistakably waive their statutory right to a judicial forum (see Wright v Universal Mar. Serv. Corp., 525 U.S. 70, 79-80, 142 L. Ed. 2d 361, 119 S. Ct. 391 [1998]). The [**389] CBA's general arbitration clause provides for arbitration of "Any dispute, [***2] difference, or controversy related to wages, hours and working conditions," which could be understood to mean only disputes concerning matters under the contract (see id. at 80; cf. Matter of Ball [SFX Broadcasting], 236 A.D.2d 158, 665 N.Y.S.2d 444 [1997], lv denied 92 N.Y.2d 803, 699 N.E.2d 433, 677 N.Y.S.2d 73 [1998]). Although another portion of the CBA required the agreements to be subject to all applicable laws in effect, it lacked the necessary explicit incorporation of statutory antidiscrimination requirements to presume arbitrability (see Wright v Universal Mar. Serv. Corp., supra, 525 U.S. at 81; cf. Circuit City Stores v Adams, 532 U.S. 105, 109-110, 149 L. Ed. 2d 234, 121 S. Ct. 1302 [2001]). That YU's CBA contained a nondiscrimination provision, in contrast to the CBA in Wright, does not make any waiver of the right to a judicial forum "clear and unmistakable." Nor do we find apposite Butler Mfg. Co. v United Steelworkers of Am. (336 F.3d 629, 633-634 [7th Cir 2003]), particularly in light of the fact that the court there did not compel the employee to submit to arbitration, but rather found that the arbitrator had the power [***3] under the CBA to arbitrate particular statutory claims after both parties had initially agreed to do so.

[*187] YU did procure workers' compensation coverage for plaintiffs, as was undisputed at oral argument. The claim for negligent hiring and retention must thus be dismissed due to the exclusivity of remedy under the Workers' Compensation Law § 11, § 29[6] (Burlew v American Mut. Ins. Co., 63 N.Y.2d 412, 416, 472 N.E.2d 682, 482 N.Y.S.2d 720 [1984]).

The court erred in declining to dismiss the assault and battery causes of action brought under the doctrine of respondeat superior. Defendant Frucht clearly acted beyond the scope of his employment, motivated by private concerns that were not even remotely related to any conduct YU could have foreseen in the performance of his duties (see Dykes v McRoberts Protective Agency, 256 A.D.2d 2, 680 N.Y.S.2d 513 [1998]).

Plaintiffs' claim for intentional infliction of emotional distress should also have been dismissed as against YU, where their remedy for damages has been preserved in the surviving statutory claims for sexual harassment and retaliation (McIntyre v Manhattan Ford, Lincoln-Mercury, 256 A.D.2d 269, 270, 682 N.Y.S.2d 167 [***4] [1998], lv denied 94 N.Y.2d 753, 722 N.E.2d 507, 700 N.Y.S.2d 427 [1999]).

Yeshiva Faces Harassment Lawsuit
By John Portnow
YU Commentator (NY) - September 20, 2005

Melissa Lisbon, a former Yeshiva employee, has recently filed a $15 million sexual harassment law suit against Yeshiva and her former boss, Stephen Frucht, according to media reports. Ms. Lisbon, the fourth woman to allege such charges against Mr. Frucht, claims that she was repeatedly asked for sexual favors in exchange for better working conditions. Ms. Lisbon, as well as the other women involved, claims that Yeshiva has maintained an indifferent stance towards Mr. Frucht. The New York Post reported that according to Ms. Lisbon's attorney, "They put the man in this position, to have this type of power and authority. He was able to run amok for quite a long time." According to the Post, he declined to comment on whether or not any sexual acts were actually performed.

When allegations were first put forth almost three years ago, Yeshiva conducted a quiet internal investigation before deciding to relieve Mr. Frucht of his duites. Since then, the university has tried to keep a low profile on the incident.

Shortly after the accusations were made, the university, under the leadership of then Public Relations Director Peter Ferrara and his assistant Melissa Fleischer, launched a series of seminars for employees regarding the recognition and prevention of sexual harassment. In particular, the seminars focused on defining sexual harassment in order to inform potential violators of what they may and may not do, as well as conveying to potential victims how to recognize sexual harassment and subsequently react to it. While Ferrara claimed that the seminars were being launched simply due to available resourcesthe resources necessary, many workers believed that the seminars were a reaction to the accusations brought against Mr. Frucht.


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