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Your Employer’s Anti-Sexual Harassment Policies and Your New Jersey Employment Litigation

GavelSometimes, when an employee is a victim of sexual harassment, the employer may respond quickly and appropriately, following well-established procedures and policies that it created in advance. Many other times, though, that’s not the case, and that latter scenario is something that may give rise to a sexual harassment lawsuit. Your New Jersey sexual harassment attorney can help you analyze your case and decide what a good manner to proceed may be.

One case recently decided by the Appellate Division involved an employee working for a chain of convenience and food stores. When the employee started in 1999, the employer gave her a copy of its employment handbook, which included the business’ anti-sexual harassment policies. At an awards dinner in 2010, one of the company’s loss prevention employees allegedly sexually harassed the woman repeatedly.

The woman reported the harassment on a survey related to the dinner. The employer investigated and reprimanded the loss prevention employee, including a formal written admonishment, mandatory attendance at a sexual harassment training session, and prohibition from future contact with the alleged victim.

Two years later, the woman sued the employer for the sexual harassment she suffered. On this occasion, the employee wasn’t successful as a result of how the employer handled the case. It had clearly communicated its anti-harassment policies from the beginning, responded swiftly to the complaint with a prompt investigation, and formally punished the harasser.

Many times, though, that isn’t what an employer does. Too often, harassment victims are told, “You misunderstood him,” or “He’s harmless… that’s just the way he is,” or “It’s best not to complain… You’ll go further here if you don’t involve HR.” Many employers will rely upon their written anti-harassment policies in their defense.

When employers don’t respond promptly and appropriately to harassment, or they don’t have adequate procedures in place to let victims know in advance what their options are if they experience harassment, that’s when victims may have recourse in the courts.

As opposed to the Quick Chek litigation, a case from two years ago involving a temporary employee at a juice company offers a study in contrast. The employee suffered from multiple forms of harassment from March 2011 to October 2011, including having her breasts touched by the man assigned to train her. When she complained about this touching to another employee, the man in whom she confided subsequently engaged in multiple acts of inappropriate touching as well, telling her that temporary employees were “a dime a dozen.” The woman’s supervisor and team leader also allegedly engaged in lewd conduct.

That victim sued, and her employer attempted to argue that it could not be liable because it “had implemented an effective anti-harassment policy.” The Appellate Division did not agree with that argument. One of the key shortcomings in the employer’s procedures was that, although the victim started working in March 2011 as a temporary employee, she did not receive a copy of the anti-harassment policy until she became a permanent employee in February 2012. During the entirety of the March-October 2011 period of harassment, the victim was not informed of the policy, nor did she receive any training on it. This failure meant that the employer wasn’t entitled to summary judgment, and the employee was allowed to pursue her case.

If you have experienced sexual harassment at work, reach out to the knowledgeable New Jersey sexual harassment attorneys at Phillips & Associates to learn more about your rights. Our team has been helping employees who have been victimized at work for many years. Contact us online or at (609) 436-9087 today to set up a free and confidential consultation with one of our skilled attorneys to find out how we can help you with your case.

More blog posts:

New Jersey Township’s First Female Police Officer Receives $355,000 Sex Discrimination Award, New Jersey Employment Lawyer Blog, May 4, 2017

Divorcing Rescue Squad Employee Allowed to Pursue Marital Status Discrimination Claim, New Jersey Supreme Court Says, New Jersey Employment Lawyer Blog, April 20, 2017

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