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How Might an Appellate Court Rule in a Sexual Harassment Case Against a Judge in New Jersey?

Part of what makes certain types of harassment and discrimination, such as quid pro quo sexual harassment, so insidious is that they often leave the victim with the sense that she is powerless, and that her harasser has all the power. That is doubly true if the harasser is, in fact, a politically or professionally powerful person. Don’t fall into that trap of hopelessness. If you’ve experienced quid pro quo sexual harassment, you are entitled to sue, and you may be entitled to receive significant compensation. Reach out to a skilled New Jersey sexual harassment attorney without fear and without delay to find out what options exist for you.

It’s one thing (and an undoubtedly agonizing thing) when your sexual harasser is some low-level supervisor. Imagine how much more stressful it may be when your harasser is a powerful person like a judge! That was the situation facing C.S., a probation officer, in her discrimination and harassment case.

The alleged harasser was the top trial court judge in the county where C.S. lived. They met at a holiday party and exchanged telephone numbers. According to C.S.’s court papers, she visited the judge’s chambers after hours and, although she didn’t want to, she gave into the judge’s insistence to have sex with him. The judge allegedly called the pair’s sexual interaction a “business relationship.”

That alleged “business” looked a lot like quid pro quo sexual harassment. Based on C.S.’s description, the judge got sex, and, in exchange, he used his influence to benefit C.S., such as getting her a job closer to her home.

That continued for four years. After those four years, though, C.S. moved on. After ending the relationship, C.S. asserted she was frequently the target of discrimination. She allegedly was denied overtime, denied her own office, denied the right to serve on-call duty and denied training opportunities, all things that her male colleagues received. When she complained to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the judge allegedly had her disciplined in retaliation, despite having just received a positive evaluation “with no noted performance issues.”

If you were in a scenario like C.S. was, it might be easy to give up and assume you have no legal options. Fortunately, this woman didn’t do that. She obtained legal counsel and she took on the court and the judge, taking her case all the way to the federal Third Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia.

That court, whose decisions directly affect federal cases in New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Delaware, ruled that C.S. could go forward with her claims of a hostile work environment, quid pro quo sexual harassment and discrimination in violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment… including against the judge.

While judges are entitled to something called “qualified immunity,” which protects them from being sued in a lot of situations, qualified immunity didn’t apply to a case like this. When your case establishes “a violation of a constitutional right that was ‘clearly established’” at the time of the defendant’s alleged misconduct, then the defendant you’ve sued isn’t entitled to qualified immunity. C.S.’s arguments demonstrated that, so the judge remained potentially liable.

Hopefully, success stories like this one will encourage other victims of discrimination and harassment not to suffer in silence. Instead, get the legal help you need and protect your rights. Count on the knowledgeable sexual harassment attorneys at Phillips & Associates and our many years of experience in successfully representing workers who’ve been harmed by harassment and discrimination. Contact us online or at (609) 436-9087 today to set up a free and confidential consultation.

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