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Three women who accuse Charlie Rose of repeated sexual harassment were back in court Monday with arguments and affidavits intended to save a discrimination and retaliation lawsuit against the former co-anchor of CBS This Morning. In new court papers, an attorney for the women writes that “Rose was one person on TV but another in real life” and looks to hold him accountable under the New York City Human Rights Law framed as “among the country’s farthest-reaching and comprehensive anti-harassment laws.”
Katherine Brooks Harris, Sydney McNeal and Chelsea Wei filed their claims in New York last May. Subsequently, the plaintiffs settled with CBS but Rose continues to fight.
Rose’s attorneys, in a motion to dismiss submitted last September, blasted the complaint for its “attempts to seize upon routine workplace interactions and banter.” The dismissal brief also argued that the women had failed to plead actionable conduct. “In the absence of the context, tone, and setting in which comments allegedly were made by Rose or in which Rose allegedly ‘touched’ any of the Plaintiffs, the Complaint does not establish that a reasonable person in Plaintiffs’ employment relationship would have perceived the alleged conduct as unwanted gender-based conduct,” stated the dismissal motion. “The conclusory examples are meaningless.”
Kenneth Goldberg, attorney for the women, responds.
“Any argument by Rose as to the severity of his unlawful conduct is irrelevant to a motion to dismiss and inapplicable to liability,” he writes. “At best, such assertions may be a matter for the jury to consider in awarding damages.”
According to Goldberg, New York has stepped up to fight workplace sex harassment, not only in instances where an employee gets fired because of gender, but also “less-well verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature — even isolated, gender-based comments and conduct.”
He points to a “landmark” case handled by New York’s appellate courts in 2009 as well as how city lawmakers later “reemphasize[d}” broad standards of liability and “codified that ‘gender-based harassment threatens the terms, conditions and privileges of employment.'”
What’s more, Harris, McNeal and Wei aim to bolster their suit with affidavits testifying about their experiences with Rose.
For example, Harris says she would regularly be summoned to his corporate offices.
“He would sit on the bench outside the broadcast studio and would require me to sit next to him,” she states. “On at least one occasion, I was wearing a skirt and, as I sat down, Rose intentionally placed his hand on the bench so that my buttocks landed on his hand and he kept his hand under me. On at least one other occasion, I was wearing a skirt and, after I sat down on the bench, Rose sat down and intentionally slid his hand under my buttocks.”
Rose “would constantly touch me and squeeze me in a dominating and degrading manner,” adds McNeal. “Rose did not touch male employees in the way that he touched me.”
McNeal also says that in front of her and Harris, Rose would undress, and on other occasions would grab them and plant wet kisses on the cheek. “Submission to Rose’s conduct was a term and condition of my employment,” she submits.
Therese M. Doherty, attorney for Rose at Mintz Levin, gave THR a statement.
Now, in response to Mr. Rose’s motion to dismiss the complaint, and one year after the allegations, plaintiffs would have us believe that, with the further aid of their lawyer, they just recalled additional alleged actions of Mr. Rose, ” says Doherty. “The claims are baseless and, even if the complaint were to survive the dismissal motion, Plaintiffs will not be able to prove their alleged claims in a court of law. Mr. Rose did not physically or verbally sexually harass these Plaintiffs. He did not pursue sexual activity with any of these Plaintiffs. He did not discriminate against any these Plaintiffs.”
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