Two former staff members of New York's ex-state Assemblyman Vito Lopez, who each filed suit for sexual harassment against the lawmaker, have been awarded $545,000 as a settlement in their cases.
According to the Wall Street Journal, in 2012, two female employees that had worked under Lopez accused the assemblyman of touching them inappropriately and making sexually suggestive remarks. The allegations led to an ethics panel that ultimately supported these claims and consequently stripped Lopez of power, though he was allowed to remain in office.
A subsequent 70-page report published in May 2013 by the Joint Commission on Public Ethics revealed that, in addition to the two plaintiffs, there were two other women on Lopez's staff that he had "made demeaning comments [toward. He also] asked them to dress provocatively in the office and pressed them for intimate contact." The report revealed that Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver not only knew about Lopez's misconduct, but had worked to hide the allegations of sexual harassment made against the assemblyman, paying two of the accusers $100,000 to keep quiet.
Although Lopez resigned following the publication of these findings, the other two women who had filed complaints each launched a sexual harassment lawsuit of their own against the former assemblyman. An additional federal suit was levied against both Lopez and Silver. On Thursday, February 5, it was announced that all three lawsuits had reached a settlement totaling $545,000 for the plaintiffs and their counsel, to be paid for by the State of New York. As part of the settlement, Lopez does not admit to any wrongdoing.
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