If a coworker has sexually assaulted or otherwise sexually harassed you on the job, you almost certainly have certain expectations of your employer. You likely expect that, after you submit a complaint notifying your employer of the assault or harassment, the employer will initiate an investigation that is prompt, diligent, and thorough. If your employer doesn’t do that, then they may be liable to you under both the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination and federal law, so you certainly want to get in touch with a knowledgeable New Jersey sexual harassment lawyer about your situation.
Having that skilled legal representation on your side can be crucial. That’s because there’s a lot that goes into litigating a case like this successfully. You have to amass the witness testimony and documentary evidence necessary to prove your claims. Additionally, in some cases, you may need an expert witness to explain certain things to the jury. An expert may provide essential evidence by shedding light on some relevant topic that is outside the knowledge base of your average juror.
The hostile work environment case of a South Jersey woman was one of those times. The plaintiff, L.M., was a patient care technician at a dialysis center in Washington Township. The woman’s hostile work environment claim alleged that a male coworker sexually assaulted her, that she reported it to the employer but that, even after that complaint, the employer failed to take the appropriate measures, thereby creating a hostile work environment in violation of Title VII and the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination.
Some of the key factual issues in a case like this one might seem fairly black-and-white. Did the coworker sexually assault L.M.? Did L.M. report the assault? Did the employer fail to take action?
One thing, though, wouldn’t be so black-and-white. If you’re a hostile work environment plaintiff like this woman, the crux of your case might well be that the employer did take remedial action, but that that action was insufficient under the law.
One way that you may be able to strengthen your case is through the use of one or more expert witnesses. Experts can take topics with which jurors probably aren’t familiar and make those things easier to grasp. For example, say you were sexually assaulted in a bar’s parking lot and you sued the bar for its inadequate security. An expert witness could not tell the jury whether or not the bar’s security was sufficient enough to qualify as non-negligent under the law, but he or she could tell the jury what the industry standard was for security for bars like the defendant’s.
In cases like L.M.’s, the law says that an employer can be liable for a coworker’s sexual assault upon you if the employer’s remedial action, such as an investigation, was less than prompt or appropriate.
An Employer’s Investigation Must Be ‘Calculated to Prevent Further Harassment’
Often these investigations are not delayed, but rather faulty in their execution. For example, an employer might conduct an investigation that was carried out on a timely basis, but that also was “carried out in a way that prevents the discovery of serious and significant harassment by an employee.” When that happens, the employer’s actions are said to be not “reasonably calculated to prevent further harassment,” and thereby create a potential for employer liability.
The judge rejected the employer’s request to exclude L.M.’s expert. The man who L.M. proposed to present to the jury was a Pennsylvania attorney who was an established expert in workplace investigations, including those arising as a result of claims of sexual harassment and discrimination.
The court explained that, although the expert could not state conclusions about whether or not this employer’s remedial measures were or were not “reasonably calculated to prevent further harassment,” he could provide important testimony about what the industry standard was for workplace investigations in situations like this one. The jury could hear what this employer did and hear what the industry standard was, then make its own decisions.
Your hostile work environment case is like a puzzle with an enormous array of pieces, both great and small. These “pieces” can include items like doing the right pre-trial discovery to get essential evidence and also deciding whether or not to use experts and, if so, whom. Your case is far too important not to do everything you can to enhance its odds of success. Look to the thoughtful and diligent New Jersey sexual harassment attorneys at Phillips & Associates to be the powerful advocate you need. Contact us online or at (609) 436-9087 today to set up a free and confidential consultation.