A former Fox Rothschild LLP administrative assistant who says a former labor and employment partner sexually harassed her must pursue her suit against the firm and the lawyer in federal court in New Jersey, a New York federal judge ruled Monday.
Stephanie Jones’s allegations don’t have a significant enough connection to New York City, where she brought the suit, for it to remain there, the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York said. Jones sued Fox Rothschild and former New Jersey-based partner Ian Siminoff in December.
She accuses him of an unrelenting campaign of lewd text messages and other sexual harassment, including attempted rape. Fox Rothschild failed to act on her complaints and instead retaliated against her for calling out Siminoff, the lawsuit says.
The firm terminated Siminoff the same day Jones filed suit.
Fox Rothschild and Siminoff both moved to dismiss, or to at least have some claims dropped by the Southern District of New York and the remainder transferred to the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey. Jones opposed their motions. She argued that Siminoff harassed her both in New Jersey, where she usually worked, and in New York, where he worked regularly and she sometimes worked.
Venue is proper in every federal jurisdiction in which a substantial part of events giving rise to a claim occurred, she said.
But her allegations didn’t pass that test, Judge Alvin K. Hellerstein said in ruling that Jones’s case belongs in New Jersey federal court.
Jones’s lawsuit only refers to New York twice, the judge said. She alleges the firm has an office there and that some of the more than 100 lewd text messages Siminoff sent to her were sent while he was working in New York.
That’s not enough of a connection to New York given that the bulk of Jones’s allegations describe harassment that occurred in New Jersey, including “serious allegations” of attempted rape and potential failures of Fox Rothschild’s New Jersey office “to respond to a dangerous and abusive situation,” Hellerstein said.
T.A. Blackburn Law and Law Offices of Robert T. Vance Jr. represent Jones. Fisher & Phillips represents Fox Rothschild. Paduano & Weintraub represents Siminoff.
The case is Jones v. Fox Rothschild LLP, S.D.N.Y., No. 1:19-cv-11573, motions to transfer granted 5/18/20.