An important New Jersey sexual harassment ruling from the federal Third Circuit Court of Appeals is useful for employees who may have been victims of sexual harassment at work. The new ruling highlights who can qualify as a “supervisor” for the purposes of triggering employer liability in a sexual harassment case. The new ruling concluded that a foreman who handed out work assignments did qualify, and the woman he allegedly harassed was entitled to pursue her case.
The case involved Michelle, who, in 2011, obtained work as a substitute custodian with the Atlantic City schools. That meant that Michelle performed work on a “fill-in” basis but was not guaranteed a certain amount of work, or any assignments at all. Interested in increasing her volume of work, Michelle introduced herself to several custodial foremen. One foreman allegedly engaged in multiple acts of harassment. There was unwanted groping, invitations to the foreman’s office where the foreman was sitting unclothed, and promises of favorable work assignments in exchange for sex, according to the woman.
Allegedly fearing that her job was in jeopardy, Michelle had sex with the foreman once, but she consistently rejected his advances after that. Following her rejection of the foreman, the custodian believed that the foreman began treating her differently. She notified Human Resources, which investigated and concluded that the custodian did not suffer from sexual harassment or discrimination.