An Upstate New York business supply company is being sued by its former chief executive officer for being terminated after she rebuffed the company’s president’s sexual advances.
Courtnay Dittbrenner was hired by Triple A Supplies Inc. in 2014 as director of corporate compliance and was promoted to CEO in 2015, according to the complaint.
Dittbrenner and Aaron Weiss, Triple A’s president, met regularly one-on-one, according to the complaint. Beginning in the spring of 2015, following one such meeting, Weiss forced Dittbrenner to hug him. This behavior continued on Weiss’s part for two to three months, Dittbrenner claims. At the same time, Weiss told her that he was happy with the manner in which she was running the company and hoped to have her there for years to come.
Beginning in September of 2015 Weiss’s hugs were accompanied by attempts to kiss Dittbrenner, according to the complaint. Each time, Dittbrenner claims, she was able to evade the kiss. The next month Weiss again went to hug Dittbrenner, but she turned away.
From then on, according to the complaint, “things became silent and hostile between” them. Weiss avoided Dittbrenner when she attempted to discuss concerns about the company.
At the time of her termination in January 2017, Dittbrenner was told that the position of CEO was being eliminated. Two days after she was fired, Triple A hired a man as general manager. Dittbrenner claims, after reviewing the job description, it was essentially the same as CEO.
“When [Triple A] terminated [Dittbrenner’s] employment, they claimed it was because her position was being terminated. In fact, the real reason for [her] termination was her refusal to acquiesce in Weiss’s sexual advances, which created a hostile work environment in violation of Title VII and state law.”
The State Division of Human Rights found probable cause to believe Dittbrenner had been sexually harassed. In so finding it said it could not ignore a prior case from 1999 where Weiss had behaved in a similar manner and the complainant was fired in retaliation for not meeting his sexual advances.
Dittbrenner is represented by Stephen Bergstein of New Paltz, New York who brought the case in the Southern District of New York.
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