A New Jersey Jury Awards a Bank Employee $2.4M After the Employer Failed to Curb a Customer’s Sexually Harassing Conduct

As a worker in New Jersey, you are entitled to expect that you can come to work and do your work in an environment free of sexual harassment. You are also entitled to expect that your employer will take the appropriate actions to protect you from all risks of sexual harassment about which it knows or should know, even if those risks come from people who are not employees of your employer. If you are harmed by sexual harassment that your employer couldn’t possibly anticipate, your employer still has an obligation to take all the remedial steps necessary to ensure that you’re protected going forward. If those things don’t happen, then your employer may be in violation of the Law Against Discrimination and you may be entitled to substantial compensation. Contact a knowledgeable New Jersey sexual harassment attorney to learn more.

A recent jury verdict from Essex County is a reminder of several of those above truths. The worker, D.S., was a 41-year-old woman who worked as a wealth manager at the Glen Ridge branch of a major bank. The harasser in this case was a customer in his 70s. The customer allegedly followed D.S. from the branch to her car one day, verbally harassing her. The harassment ultimately became physical, with the customer grinding his groin into the woman’s backside, according to NBC News.

The state charged the customer with sexual assault. According to D.S.’s complaint, the bank did nothing, despite the fact that the customer was already notorious for harassing female employees at the branch, especially women of color like D.S. The man’s past conduct had included, among other acts, at least one instance where he placed his head on a female mortgage rep’s breasts as he hugged her, Fox Business reported. That failure to act, according to the jury who heard the wealth manager’s case, was enough to establish that the bank had violated the Law Against Discrimination.

The law in this area in New Jersey is fairly clear. As the Division on Civil Rights has instructed employers in a “5 Things You Should Know About Protections from Sexual Harassment in Employment,” the Law Against Discrimination says that your “employer must take action to stop sexual harassment if it knows or should have known about it. This is true regardless of whether the person engaging in the harassing conduct is a supervisor, a colleague, or a third party that you interact with at work (like a patron, client, or vendor).”

If you notify your employer about the harassment, your employer must take action

There are several things to focus on in that paragraph. Note the broad array of harassers covered. It doesn’t matter whether your harasser is your boss, your colleague, a contractor, a vendor, or a client/customer… harassment by any of these people is potentially the basis for a winning harassment suit. Also, note the inclusion of the word “must.” This means that action by the employer is mandatory. The employer doesn’t get to select whether or not to take action to protect you… if the employer knew or should have known, action to protect you is required. As the DCR explained, “if you report that a patron is subjecting you to unwanted sexual touching, your employer must take action.”

That harassment is exactly what happened in this wealth manager’s case, and the employer taking action is exactly what didn’t happen, which is why the employee received a judgment in her favor and an award of $2.4 million in damages.

No one should have to endure graphic sexual comments and/or physical assaults while she’s simply trying to do her job. That’s true whether the harasser is your boss, your office neighbor, your vendor, or your client. If you’ve been sexually harassed at work and your employer took no action after the fact to stop it from continuing, then you may be entitled to a civil judgment and a significant amount of compensation. Talk to the skilled New Jersey sexual harassment attorneys at Phillips & Associates. Our team of determined attorneys is here to help those who have endured sexual harassment get justice. Contact us online or at (866) 229-9441 today to set up a free and confidential consultation to discuss how we can assist you.

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