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How a New Jersey Worker Used Her Hostile Environment Lawsuit and Settlement to Create Change for Future Sexual Harassment Plaintiffs

If you’ve been harmed as a result of workplace discrimination or sexual harassment, you’re probably looking for something that you consider to be “justice.” Sometimes, that justice is a money award or settlement, to make up for all the lost earnings and other financial harm you’ve suffered. Sometimes, it is a large money award or settlement to create positive change by discouraging your employer and others from engaging in similar wrongful conduct in the future. Still other times, it is about creating positive change through other means beyond just a money payment. Whatever form of justice you’re seeking as a result of your workplace discrimination or sexual harassment, the right New Jersey employment attorney can help get you there.

K.B., who was a staff member on Gov. Murphy’s 2017 campaign, was a woman who allegedly suffered a most egregious form of workplace sexual harassment. In April 2017, the head of the Murphy campaign’s Muslim and Latino outreach allegedly sexually assaulted K.B. in her apartment, reported. According to K.B.’s lawsuit, this happened after a different female staffer had submitted no fewer than three complaints about “a toxic work environment and workplace violence” within the campaign. K.B. subsequently sued the Muslim/Latino outreach director, the Murphy campaign, and the state for several violations, including violations of the Law Against Discrimination.

The campaign staffer’s lawsuit is a reminder of several important aspects of New Jersey anti-discrimination and harassment law. First, K.B.’s case is a reminder that, regardless of whether she had been a paid staffer or an unpaid volunteer, she had a right to seek a civil court award. Although the Law Against Discrimination does not make a specific statement including unpaid interns and volunteers within the law’s protections, the Director of the Division on Civil Rights has stated that both paid employees and volunteer workers are protected against discrimination and sexual harassment by the law.

A hostile environment can be triggered by pervasive or severe harassment

Additionally, this woman’s case is a reminder that you do not always have to allege numerous instances of wrongful conduct in order to have a viable hostile environment case. K.B.’s hostile environment case rested almost exclusively on one incident (the alleged sexual assault at the apartment,) but even just an isolated incident can be the basis for valid hostile environment claim if it’s severe enough. In the past, federal courts have ruled that valid cases of hostile work environments were presented by workers whose supervisors used a common racial slur just once, and by a worker whose manager used another slur exactly twice. Similarly, even just a single, isolated incident of sexual touching or sexual assault may be enough, by itself, to establish the existence of hostile work environment.

K.B. received $1 million in her settlement. She directed that $600,000 of the settlement go to a non-profit entity in Hudson County that provides aid to low-income survivors of sexual assault. The remaining $400,000 paid her legal bills, according to the report.

Sometimes, settlements can achieve successes for plaintiffs that cannot be measured in dollars when those settlements’ terms force defendants to take needed corrective actions. In addition to the $1 million payment, the state also agreed to make more than two dozen very important changes, including to the Equal Employment Opportunity process that precedes sexual harassment lawsuits in court. The changes now “allow alleged victims of sexual assault or harassment to have a support person accompany them to interviews with state Equal Employment Opportunity office investigators,” according to

A “successful result” in a workplace discrimination or sexual harassment case probably has as many different definitions as there are victims of workplace discrimination and sexual harassment. Whatever form of relief you desire to achieve through civil legal action, the skilled New Jersey employment attorneys at Phillips & Associates are here to help you get to that outcome. Contact us online or at (609) 436-9087 today to set up a free and confidential consultation to discuss how we can assist you.

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