Professionals strive to maintain safe and welcoming workplaces for employees and guests. To further this goal, many firms have incorporated into their employment manuals anti-harassment policies and training. Yet, despite such precautionary steps, an employer cannot guarantee an environment free of wrongdoers. In the unfortunate event of a claim, it is up to the court to determine whether an employer that took proactive measures to protect employees is nonetheless liable in employment related harassment claims.
Articles Discussing Workplace Sexual Harassment Cases In New Jersey.
On February 11, 2015, the New Jersey Supreme Court for the first time directly addressed and adopted the standard set forth in the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1998 decisions in Burlington Industries, Inc. v. Ellerth1 and Faragher v. City of Boca Raton2 regarding employer liability for a supervisor’s harassment. In Aguas v. State of New Jersey, the court held that an employer can defend against a claim of supervisory harassment that did not result in a tangible employment action by showing (a) it had strong anti-harassment policies and reporting procedures in place and (b) the plaintiff unreasonably failed to take advantage of those policies and procedures. The court’s ruling in this case not only provides an invaluable defense to New Jersey employers, but also serves to emphasize the importance of implementing and adhering to effective anti-harassment policies and procedures that comply with the requirements set forth by the U.S. Supreme Court.
The New Jersey Supreme Court has endorsed an employer’s right to assert its effective anti-harassment policies and remedial measures as an affirmative defense in opposition to New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (“LAD”) claims of hostile work environment sexual harassment based on the conduct of a supervisor. Ilda Aguas v. State of New Jersey, No. A-35-13 (N.J. Sup. Ct. Feb. 11, 2015).
Executive Summary: On February 11, 2015, New Jersey’s Supreme Court formally decided an important issue left open for nearly two decades concerning New Jersey’s Law Against Discrimination (LAD). In Aguas v. State of New Jersey, __ N.J. __, No. 072467 (2015), the state’s highest court definitively held that an employer can rely upon the company’s anti-harassment policy as an “affirmative defense” to an employee’s claims of negligence or vicarious liability brought under the LAD. In doing so, the Court aligns the standard for employer liability under the LAD with that set forth by the U.S. Supreme Court in its landmark 1998 decisions, Faragher v. City of Boca Raton and Burlington Indus. v. Ellerth. A copy of the decision is available here.