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LatinoJustice files Complaint in NY Supreme Court: Funes v. Berkeley College

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Press Release

March 11, 2021
 

Contacts:
Elianne Ramos | Chief Communications Officer | [email protected] 212.739.7513
Sarai Bejarano | Manager of Traditional & Digital Media | [email protected]| 212-739-7581
 

Latina Army Veteran Sues Berkeley College for Condonation of a Hostile Work Environment
LatinoJustice files Complaint in NY Supreme Court: Funes v. Berkeley College

New York, NY – On Wednesday March 10, 2021, LatinoJustice PRLDEF filed a gender bias and sexually hostile workplace and retaliation complaint in the New York Supreme Court, Funes v. Berkeley College on behalf of Agatha Funes, a Latina U.S. Army veteran.

Over the last three years Berkeley College, a for-profit institution of higher education, with campuses in mid-town Manhattan, Brooklyn and New Jersey, condoned its female employees in the Office of Military and Veteran Affairs, being subjected to unwanted and unsolicited sexual innuendos, degradation, harassment and intimidation. Agatha Funes, a Latinx army veteran, who served three tours of duty abroad and domestically, and has nearly two decades of leadership experience, on March 10, 2021, filed the complaint to put an end to the toxic, abusive and demeaning work environment that she and other female employees endured at Berkeley College. 

 Ms. Funes’ complaint alleges that her male supervisor—her harasser—showed her lewd Facebook pictures of a Berkeley College male student’s private body parts, repeatedly pestered her to translate vulgar Spanish words, such as “huevos” (men’s genitals), and told her about sexual conquests that he found on a sex dating site.  Further, the male supervisor said Latina women were “submissive,” referred to another female Latina employee as a “slut” and ridiculed her for being too “urban.” The supervisor chastened another female employee for purportedly being a “gold digger” and repeatedly told his supervisees that he only dated models. Rather than take corrective action when Ms. Funes complained about her degrading work environment, Berkeley College furloughed and then fired her. Berkeley College also retaliated against Ms. Funes for standing up for veteran students who complained that the college was over-charging them for tuition and was depriving them of use of college facilities. 

 Ms. Funes’ complaint, filed on her behalf by LatinoJustice PRLDEF, a not-for-profit civil rights organization, seeks compensatory damages and injunctive relief for Berkeley College’s condonation of a hostile work environment and for retaliation in violation of the New York State Human Rights Law, New York City Human Rights Law, and the Equal Employment Opportunity Act (Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964). Ms. Funes’ complaint also seeks to hold her supervisor liable for his offensive conduct in violation of the aiding and abetting provisions of both the New York State and New York City Human Rights Laws.

 “I served my country honorably in the army. Like every civilian, I deserve to work in an environment that is free from sexual, racial and disability related harassment,” said Agatha Funes. “I enjoyed working with veteran students at Berkeley College. I would have continued to serve them in their quest for higher education, had I not endured blatant harassment at Berkeley College. I want Berkeley College to apologize for its conduct, to take corrective action, and to repair the trauma that it caused me,” said Ms. Funes.

 “We commend Ms. Funes for standing up against sexual harassment. Too often, women, particularly women of color, are silenced and intimidated by their employers from seeking redress in the face of abusive and toxic work environments,” said Nathalia A. Varela, Associate Counsel at LatinoJustice, one of the lawyers on Ms. Funes’ case. “LatinoJustice will vigorously defend Ms. Funes’ rights under the law,” she concluded.

A 2018 study profiled on NPR found that sexual harassment remains a pervasive problem, noting that 81% of women had experienced some form of sexual harassment in their lifetimes. 

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About LatinoJustice
LatinoJustice PRLDEF works to create a more just society by using and challenging the rule of law to secure transformative, equitable and accessible justice, by empowering our community and by fostering leadership through advocacy and education. For more than 40 years, LatinoJustice PRLDEF has acted as an advocate against injustices throughout New York and beyond. To learn more about LatinoJustice, visit
www.latinojustice.org.