BROOKLYN (CN) – A 36-year-old guidance counselor claims in court that New York City schools fired her after finding photos of her in lingerie taken 15 years before, when she was a young actress and model.
Tiffani Notre Ellis sued the New York City Department of Education and the NYC School District, in Kings County Court.
Ellis says she worked for the Department of Education for 3 years, starting in 1999, then taught middle school for several more years and then became a guidance counselor.
She says she worked as a counselor at Murray Bergtraum High School in Lower Manhattan from 2007 to 2011, before the school found the photos.
“Plaintiff was previously an actress, a model and had lingerie photos taken of her when she was eighteen to twenty years old,” the complaint states. “Plaintiff fully disclosed the pictures and a prior proceeding had been commenced against her back in 2009 with the superintendant, Tamika S. Matheson, and at other times. Those proceedings were dismissed.
“However, the pictures were altered and found [their] way back on the Internet.
“Plaintiff has no control over the publication of altered pictures on the Internet,” the complaint states.
Ellis claims that the photos included some supposed to be protected on her Facebook settings.
“Plaintiff also had several pictures on her commercial Facebook in connection with her Internet talk show, ‘Girl Talk NYC,'” the complaint states. “(H)owever, there were privacy controls on Facebook, and thus the pictures were not for public dissemination.”
The controls apparently failed.
“Solely based on photographs that had been previously taken over fifteen years ago, plaintiff was advised that her probationary status was terminated effective December 23, 2011,” the complaint states.
“Plaintiff has been subjected to disparate treatment due to her gender because upon information and belief, male actors and models who were New York City teachers have not been terminated despite suggestive pictures … taken of them.”
Ellis claims her firing was unconstitutional: “Every citizen may freely speak, write and publish his or her sentiments on all subjects, being responsible for the abuse of that right; and no law shall be passed to abridge the liberty of speech or of the press,” the complaint states.
Ellis seeks lost wages, costs, and damages for pain and suffering, loss of reputation and constitutional violations.
She is represented by Stewart Lee Karlin.
The complaint, dated Feb. 16, was made publicly available on Tuesday.