March 11, 2006

Ex-Employee Files Harassment Suit

By Carrie Mason-Draffen, Newsday, Melville, N.Y.

Mar. 10--A former employee of a Port Washington medical-equipment distributor has filed a $30-million lawsuit against the company, alleging its chief executive and lawyer sexually harassed her.

Pascale Legagneur, 27, a Garden City resident who worked at Drive Medical Design and Manufacturing as an executive assistant to general counsel Richard S. Kolodny, said she was forced to distribute pornographic e-mails.

After she complained, chief executive Harvey P. Diamond fired her, the lawsuit says.

She filed suit against the company in U.S. District Court in Central Islip on Feb. 6. Last spring, while still at the company, she filed a complaint with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. But the agency's New York office was unable to determine whether any violations occurred. Legagneur received a standard letter giving her the right to sue in court. The lawsuit names the company and four executives.

"We wouldn't have pursued it beyond the EEOC if it didn't raise important issues about the matter in which women are treated at that company," her attorney, Christopher Brennan of Ziegler, Ziegler & Associates in Manhattan, said recently.

The company's attorney, Paul Siegel of Jackson Lewis' Melville office, said the commission didn't find any violations and that he plans to fight the lawsuit.

"The company will vigorously defend its rights," said Siegel, who also represents the four executives.

Legagneur said the harassment began shortly after she started working for Drive in July 2004 as Kolodny's assistant. The job, which paid $42,000 a year, included reviewing his e-mail and sending responses.

In September of that year, Kolodny sent Legagneur an e-mail with a subject line announcing that "August Is Breast Appreciation Month," according to the lawsuit. The e-mail included images of bare-breasted, bosomy women.

A couple of months later, she opened an e-mail that a major Drive customer sent to Kolodny. The subject line said "Sunsets -- Your Vote Counts," but the e-mail turned out to contain a pornographic picture, the complaint said.

She complained to Kolodny. But after looking at the e-mail, he laughed and ordered her to forward it to the chief executive and to executive vice president Jeffrey Schwartz, also a defendant. She said Kolodny told her to include the message "Check this out," the complaint said.

Diamond, Schwartz and defendant Douglas C. Francis, also an executive vice president, sent Kolodny X-rated e-mails, which the defendant was required to open, the complaint said.

In June, Diamond fired her. The lawsuit seeks $30 million in compensatory and punitive damages.


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