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I Was Repeatedly Sexually Harassed at Work, and So I Resigned. Can I Still Sue in New Jersey? (Hint: Yes!)

For too many workers, their workplace is not a safe place. For some, that means something like being a construction worker at a dangerous site where safety rules and regulations are routinely flouted. For others, it means something very different, but potentially as dangerous. These workers, most of whom are women but many of whom are men, face a job site where they face daily threat of harm – be it psychological, physical or both – as a result of sexual harassment from a supervisor. When your employer fails to take action to protect you, you may eventually reach a breaking point where protecting your safety means resigning. Do not be misled into thinking that, just because you resigned, you cannot win a sexual harassment case under the Law Against Discrimination. Don’t give up, but instead do reach out to an experienced New Jersey sexual harassment attorney about your legal options.

S.W. was one of those workers who resigned and later sued. She worked as a marketing manager for an auto club in Wayne. Very soon after she began her job, the sexual harassment allegedly started. D.H., one of the club’s vice presidents, engaged in many forms of harassment, according to the lawsuit.

First, it was urging S.W. to “check out” the breasts of other women who had a “nice rack.” Then there allegedly was the time that the vice president showed her a hand-drawn image, which was supposed to be a membership goal thermometer, but was actually aroused male genitalia. After that, according to S.W., was the time that she was sitting on a folding table to conduct a meeting and the man (who by then was the president) made fun of S.W.’s sitting position, asking her if it was “an invite” as he made a pelvic thrusting motion. Allegedly, the harassment escalated to unwanted touching when the president “felt up her leg.”

The manager made multiple complaints about the man, but nothing was done, according to her complaint. By the spring of 2016, the account manager had had enough and resigned. She also sued the president and the club for sexual harassment. The defense asked for summary judgment, arguing that S.W. had no case because she resigned and never suffered any adverse action at work, as she was never suspended, demoted or otherwise disciplined in any way.

In New Jersey, you don’t need proof of a firing, demotion, suspension, etc.

The Appellate Division, in ruling in favor of the employee, explained that those facts, by themselves, did not bar S.W. from going to trial. The law of sexual harassment in New Jersey does not require you, as the harassed worker, to show that you suffered an adverse employment action or otherwise lost a “tangible job benefit.” The Supreme Court has specifically stated that “the harassment itself affects the terms [and] conditions of employment.”

Additionally, in cases where the employee alleged harassment and the employer’s defense was that the conduct did occur but was merely bad behavior and did not rise to the level of sexual harassment, these cases rarely should be resolved with a summary judgment against the employee. The Supreme Court has stated that “in hostile work environment cases, whether rude and obnoxious behavior is severe or pervasive enough to be actionable, is a jury question, precluding summary judgment.” Like that previous case decided by the Supreme Court, S.W.’s case was something that should be decided by a jury and she should get her day in court.

If you’ve endured the humiliation, frustration and demoralization of sexual harassment conducted by your supervisor – and an employer that refuses to take action to stop it – don’t suffer in silence. Reach out to the experienced employment attorneys at Phillips & Associates. Our attorneys have many years effectively representing women – and men – who were harmed as a result of supervisor sexual harassment on the job. 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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