For Thanksgiving this year, we all came together to share some of the things we are thankful for every day.
I knew last Monday was going to be a super long day. I had personal training at 8:30 am, the first of many in-office meetings at 10 am, tons of work to do all day, and then choir rehearsal from 7:30 to 10 pm. I had a rare commute to myself (usually I drop off one of my two girls) and I was taking the time to try to focus and rally myself. “You can do it!” I was saying to myself, probably listening to Lizzo. I had transferred from the F to the A/C when a guy got on the train next to me. I was standing near the doors, and he got on next to me at the doors. He was yelling and obviously unhinged – ok fine. But he immediately turned toward me staring directly at me. I actually don’t remember what he was yelling but it involved accusations of me being a “bitch”, his desire to “rape” (me?), yelling about “fucking”, and grabbing his junk under his pants. He was about 2-3 feet away from me. I froze in my spot. I did not move or blink, other than to close my eyes, and think calm thoughts until the next stop, planning to switch cars at the next stop. But High Street to Fulton is super long! It felt like forever. And when I moved to get off, he did the same. So then I stayed in place, which he did too. I finally darted off and ran into the other car. My heart was pounding while I waited to see if he was going to follow me into the car before the doors closed. The worst part of this was that there were so many people on the train who could have helped me. There was a super tall guy, not even wearing headphones, standing nearby, who could have just moved to stand in between me and the perpetrator. I kept looking at that guy and waiting for him, or anybody, to do something. Nobody did. Actually, that wasn’t the worst part. Here’s the worst part: there was a minute when I thought to myself, “I knew I should have waited until I got to the gym to change into my slutty gym clothes.” When I got off the train I was shaking and had tears in my eyes. I pretty much recovered and had a good workout at the gym. But I was mad. I was mad at the guy who didn’t help, but I was also mad at myself for questioning what I was wearing. I decided not to change out of my gym clothes when I went to the office that day. Everybody thought I was crazy when I walked in, but when I explained, they got it immediately. We represent a lot of clients who have faced sexual harassment. And all of us tend to say the same things to ourselves. Was it really so bad? Did I imagine it? Am I allowed-
This January, Susan testified before the NYC Commission on Human Rights at a hearing about Pregnancy and Caregiver Discrimination. January 2019 Hearing on Pregnancy and Caregiver Discrimination Update: The Report is Out! Click Here to read the NYC Commission on Human Rights’ report on pregnancy and caregiver discrimination.
Crumiller’s Senior Associate, Caroline Piela Cohen, is running for New York City Civil Court Judge in the 6th Municipal District. Here’s why she is the woman for the job. I first met Caroline shortly after we both had our first children in the fall of 2012. We had both joined a “Ditmas Park Moms” group. I liked her right away and was happy to learn we were both attorneys in the same field. Caroline is a genuine person, and you can tell right away that she has a kind heart. She’s warm and engaging; it makes her fun to be around. Soon after we became friends, I came to realize that she is also whip smart. I started trying to recruit her for my law firm way before I had the money to hire somebody. I knew she would be an excellent attorney: great with clients, direct and to the point, and a savvy strategizer. I’ll never forget when Caroline finally reached out to me to ask if I still had a position for her. I ran over to my calculator and crunched some numbers. We had a deal within 10 minutes. I learned later that she had texted me from the bathroom in court. She had been in an uncomfortable position, where she felt pressured to move eviction proceedings forward against an elderly tenant and she felt like it went against her principles. She made a decision on the spot. My instincts about Caroline’s excellence were 100% correct. She brings her A-Game every single day, both with her litigation skills AND the homemade baked goods she makes for the office (how on earth the woman has time for everything she does is a mystery). She is warm and empathetic with clients, tough but respectful with adversaries, supportive of colleagues. Other employees have described Caroline to me as the “glue” of the office. She is the first one with a kind word: about others’ work, their accomplishments, their hairstyles. The main quality I prize at my firm is our integrity, and this is also the main quality I prize in Caroline. She is somebody who truly cares about doing the right thing. We all took a little personality quiz, and Caroline’s result is that her motivating drive is to contribute. I have seen her get teary-eyed when we have gotten great results for a deserving client. I’m getting teary-eyed, frankly, as I’m writing this. Caroline has dedicated her life and her career to social justice, and has found a way to make it happen even as a new mom. She is the real deal. The thought of losing Caroline from the firm pains me and each of us will miss her dearly. But, I truly believe that the bench needs her. Her skills, her integrity, her fair-mindedness, will be a credit to the judiciary each and every day. It’s what our litigants deserve. I hope you will join me in voting for Caroline Cohen this coming Tuesday.
When I graduated from NYU Law twelve years ago, I could not possibly have imagined how beautiful and resilient the friendships I formed would become, and what an important part of my life they would be. (That handsome man in my lawyering section – how could I have guessed we would one day get married and have two children together??) But one of my great joys has been welcoming my friend and brilliant colleague, Genesis Fisher, to the world of entrepreneurship this year. Genesis and I became friends through the public-interest crowd and a capital defense fellowship we were fortunate enough to take together, helmed by the brilliant, esteemed, and preternaturally kind Tony Amsterdam. Genesis went on to become a public defender, as many of us did. Through the years she spent defending her clients in Brooklyn, she developed a thick skin, the lawyer version of street smarts (court smarts?), and amazing litigation skills. Talking to Genesis about our jobs, she was never one of those jerks who sat around complaining about her clients or adversaries. She was always thoughtful, always observing, analyzing, and listening. She took the time and energy to really understand where her clients were coming from. BTW, she’s also super fun, and definitely way cooler than me. One time she and some other friends were over at my place, and we were having a dance party with my daughter Zohra (Sadia wasn’t born yet). I noticed Zohra quietly watching Genesis’s moves and then going off into the corner by herself to practice them. But I digress. Genesis was – is – always the person we all went to for sage advice about an interpersonal conflict or drama. You can depend on her not to judge you, or if judgment is warranted, to be honest, but not harsh. So it was no surprise whatsoever to me when I learned she had embarked on a newer path into conflict resolution services. It was immediately obvious to me, and anybody else who is lucky enough to know this amazing woman, that it is her calling. Genesis has thrown herself into mediation, conflict resolution services, and training. Now with years of study and experience under her belt, and with her natural empathy, she is undoubtedly my go-to referral for anybody experiencing any kind of conflict. She also continues to represent criminal defense clients, something she probably could do in her sleep having represented thousands of clients, but she has never lost her caring sense. I hope you will take the time to look around on her website and keep her in mind when you have a friend, colleague, or prospective client looking for a referral, whether in the mediation and conflict resolution department, or the criminal defense department. Genesis is a phenomenal resource; let’s all make the world a better place by helping to spread the word about her blossoming practice to help connect clients in need with an amazing person they will feel lucky to have found.
The “Mother Court” is known officially as the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York. While the exact origin of the nickname is unknown, it is supposed that it comes from the fact that not only can this court trace its origins to the Judiciary Act of 1789, but it predates the formation of the U.S. Supreme Court. For avid “Hamilton” fans – Aaron Burr was one of the first attorneys admitted to practice before the “Mother Court.” (We dare you to say Aaron Burr with a mouthful of peanut butter sandwich!) Want to read more about The Mother Court? Check out this excerpt on the ABA’s site.
This morning, I took a moment to pause and reflect on my life as it stands. When I think about what’s most important, of course, I think of my family first (Zohra is six now! and Sadia is three!). But loving them, and providing for them, comes pretty easily. Naturally, they are irascible at times, but by and large they are kindhearted, curious, creative, and boundlessly energetic. “Children strive lifeward”, as Dr. Ned Hallowell – my favorite author on children – likes to say. But anyway, I digress. The harder part about parenting is the responsibility I feel to show them what it means to make the most of my potential and to make the difference I want to see in the world. It’s been almost three years since I created my law firm dedicated to fighting gender and pregnancy discrimination in the workplace and fighting for the rights of NYC tenants. Am I proud? Eff yeah. We have done incredible work; we’ve helped dozens and dozens of people get to a better place in their lives, and we’re only getting started. My favorite part about thinking about my law firm is the security I feel in the knowledge that every single person on my team has a genuine desire, first and foremost, to help our clients. As employment and L&T litigators, we face difficult situations every day. Worse, we are all a bunch of quick-witted hotheads with strong opinions about virtually everything, and we all like to argue. But I never doubt, for even a second, that each person on my team has our clients’ best interests in mind. We are always, always thinking about what are the client’s goals, what will be best for the client, how can we save the client unnecessary legal fees, how is the client feeling about everything right now, has she changed her mind since we last checked in. That level of trust gives me great pride. It’s what makes me the happiest when I think about my firm. Don’t get me wrong – I take great pride in our skills also! This year, the results speak for themselves. Our teamwork with our clients, whether pushing the envelope to fight gender and pregnancy discrimination in the workplace or fighting for our L&T clients’ tenancy rights, is something to celebrate. Some of the amazing results we obtained this past year: Secured substantial six-figure settlements for two clients sexually harassed by their employer Secured a monetary recovery for client subject to extremely hostile work environment including sexist slurs and profanity. She’s now at a new job where she can focus on her talents, and not suffering through constant attack Negotiated a substantial recovery for an employee who was fired while pregnant Won reimbursement of attorney’s fees for client who was temporarily absent from his rent-stabilized home due to family obligations Through targeted and strategic litigation, we successfully persuaded a recalcitrant Board to let our clients sell their HDFC unit, where prior counsel had tried and-
Just last month, a City College in the Phillippines issued a policy requiring all female dentistry, nursing, and pharmacy students to undergo pregnancy tests. If the test comes back positive, the student may be prohibited from certain classes. In the memo announcing the policy, the school requested that the deans from each school provide a list of female students, and noted the cost of the test would be added to those students’ fees. The Gabriela Women’s Party released a powerful statement condemning the policy as discriminatory. The school, of course, defended its policy by saying it was designed to protect the students. Nobody wants to endanger unborn children. So what’s the harm? Remember that Women are Human Beings My own nifty #lifehack for evaluating whether a policy is discriminatory is to remember that women are human beings. Pretend for just a moment that pregnant women aren’t just vessels or incubators. Remember for a moment that over 90% of women are sexually active, and that only misogynists think women should be punished for sex. Make a wild guesstimate as to how many surprise pregnancies during college are wanted. A woman who has a wanted pregnancy has every right to protect her pregnancy and to make informed choices about the timing of her courseload. If we remember that women are people, we can assume that a pregnant woman is logically concerned about the health of her unborn child and will take all appropriate measures to protect it. We don’t need paternalistic laws mandating this behavior as though the pregnant woman were a petulant child in need of guidance and structure from the wise government bureaucrats. But I think what we all know is that laws like this have absolutely nothing to do with protecting unborn children. They have to do with punishing women for sex. Your typical college student taking a pregnancy test in college is desperately hoping and praying the results are negative. Abortion is not legal in the Phillippines, but we all know that does not stop desperate women who are not ready to have children from making every effort to avoid doing so. Reproductive Penalties Are an Easy Way to Discriminate Against Women Can you even imagine another scenario in which an institution required a list of its female students in order to make them pay more? While this situation sounds straight out of the Handmaids Tale, it is rooted in the same sexist beliefs that motivate pregnancy discrimination in all its forms. Pregnancy and childbirth are used all over the world, including the US, as pretexts to discriminate against women. It’s important to fight these efforts wherever they arise. Our firm is proud to represent women (and men!) facing pregnancy and caregiver discrimination by their employers. I can say from experience that no industry is immune from these outdated attitudes. Keep in touch with Crumiller P.C. and let’s keep working together to root out discrimination wherever it arises!