A former camp counselor at the 92nd Street Y says the organization retaliated against her after another counselor sexually assaulted her on the job, and she initiated legal action, according to a lawsuit filed Monday with the Manhattan Supreme Court.
The complaint contends that the 16-year-old, identified in court papers as M.K., signed on as a counselor-in-training at 92 Y's Camp Yomi in Rockland County in spring 2018, and started orientation in early June. Once camp started on June 27th, she rode to and from the camp site on a bus with an 18-year-old counselor who, according to the lawsuit, "began to direct inappropriate behavior towards her, sometimes touching her breasts or grabbing her by the stomach to move her out of his way."
Although staffers had all completed sexual harassment training, the filing explains, that curriculum focused mostly on "inappropriate behavior toward young campers": M.K. says she had no idea how to handle this senior counselor's behavior, which he brushed aside as just "playing around."
On July 19th, however, M.K. says his conduct escalated. The older counselor sat behind her on the bus, according to the lawsuit, and allegedly began goading her with comments like, "Why do you have such a fat ass today?" and "Damn, you have such a chaddy," which M.K. understood to mean "attractive backside." The complaint further alleges that the other counselor eventually "pulled down his pants and underpants and pulled M.K. down on his lap," and that the 23-year-old supervisor assigned to the bus saw him do it, but did nothing. M.K. says she told her coworker to stop, but "unperturbed by the distress he had caused, [he] then forced a 4-year-old male camper to kiss him" at some point during the remainder of the bus ride.
M.K. allegedly mentioned the incident to another counselor, who in turn told their unit director, who brought the complaint to camp director Ivy Manheim (named in the suit). When M.K. met with Manheim to talk about the bus ride, according to the lawsuit, "Manheim admitted that there had been prior complaints about [the male counselor], and upon information and belief, kept a notebook documenting the complaints of inappropriate sexual behavior made against him." Still, Manheim—"apparently hoping to avert a scandal"—allegedly asked M.K. to keep quiet, while also praising her as an "exceptional person."
After her meeting with Manheim, M.K. says she asked her unit director to speak with another staffer who reportedly experienced similar treatment from the older counselor in question. M.K. also tipped off the unit director to a third underaged staffer whose thigh the older counselor had allegedly groped. According to the lawsuit, she also spoke with Manheim. The male counselor was subsequently fired for his alleged misconduct, around the same time M.K. was named "counselor of the week."
M.K. filed a police report on July 22nd, and says the camp never notified her parents about the incident. When management learned that she planned to press charges, however, she was not invited to come back to Yomi as a counselor. The camp also did not invite back one of the other girls who came forward with sexual harassment allegations, the lawsuit claims, although both girls received positive evaluations the previous summer. After obligating M.K. to complete the interview process again—something that, to M.K.'s knowledge, none of the other return counselors had to do—the camp did not hire her back.
The lawsuit accuses 92 Y and the implicated staff of retaliating against M.K., and asks $150,000 in damages, plus attorneys' fees.
In a statement, a spokesperson for 92 Y said, "While we can’t comment on the specifics of pending litigation, we are fully confident that when this gets heard in the appropriate forum, our actions will be found to have been entirely appropriate."