Maryam Saigh is a photographer who once worked for Federico Pignatelli, the owner of the massive Pier 59 photography-studio complex on the Hudson River. Saigh, 35, claims that she was hired as Pignatelli’s assistant and from nearly the minute she began work, he sexually harassed her — insisting that she stay in hotel rooms with him where there was only one bed, and calling her things like “a hot piece of ass.” Eventually these tactics worked, and Sayigh fell victim to his charms one night on his yacht. “He called her into his room on the boat, took her bathing suit off, turned her facedown on the bed and had sex with her,” her lawsuit reads, according to the Daily News. “That evening Pignatelli told Sayigh that she would do very well at the company and that he felt he had picked the right person to be his executive assistant.”
Pignatelli, in return, accuses Sayigh of an extortion plot. In addition to having recently been named the chairman of a highly successful dental laser company, Pignatelli also once produced a B movie called Kill Me Later starring Selma Blair, and counts Pope Innocenzo XII among his ancestors. The charges in the lawsuit, he argues, are beneath him.
“I have plenty of women I can sleep with, so why would I sleep with an employee?” he asked the Daily News, adding that Sayigh is “not the type of woman I would sleep with.” A papal defense if there ever was one.
Update, March 17, 2014: Pignatelli has been found not liable, according to a press release from Pier 59:
Pier 59 Studios’ President and CEO, Federico Pignatelli, has been found not liable in connection with various claims brought in 2009 by a disgruntled former employee, Ms. Maryam Sayigh. On March 12, 2014, an Arbitrator from the American Arbitration Association issued a 50-page decision and judgment, disposing of the gender discrimination, sexual harassment and wrongful termination claims asserted by Ms. Sayigh and completely exonerating Mr. Pignatelli of any wrongdoing. The Arbitrator rejected Ms. Sayigh’s allegations of misconduct by Mr. Pignatelli, finding that Mr. Pignatelli’s testimony was “believable”, that Ms. Sayigh was terminated for poor performance, that he could “not conclude that Ms. Sayigh is a victim of sexual harassment or that her testimony should be fully credited,” and that Ms. Sayigh’s behavior throughout her tenure at Pier 59 was entirely inconsistent with that of a victim of discrimination and harassment.
Pier 59 Studios L.P. was directed to pay Ms. Sayigh a nominal amount of $5,000 in damages based on an entirely unrelated claim involving a single incident between Ms. Sayigh and another former Pier 59 employee, who, the Arbitrator recognized, immediately was terminated by Mr. Pignatelli after the incident occurred. Ms. Sayigh had demanded $2 million in damages.
“I am pleased that the Arbitrator reached the correct conclusion and dismissed these outrageous and manipulative allegations, which were a clear attempt to damage my reputation and my businesses” said Mr. Pignatelli, who vigorously had denied the claims from the beginning of this case.