Lacking anti-harassment policy, New Jersey employer liable

In a recent court decision, New Jersey employers may be held liable for negligence for an employee’s sexual harassment by a coworker if the business lacks effective anti-harassment policies, even if the employer was unaware of the situation.

The decision in Cerdeira v. Martindale-Hubbell is the first of it’s kind in New Jersey. The court’s ruling makes it fully clear that New Jersey employers can be liable for coworker sexual harassment in “the absence of an anti-harassment policy with effective preventative mechanisms.”

The state’s highest court advises employers wanting to avoid sexual harassment to put five elements in place:

  1. An anti-harassment policy
  2. A complaint structure that allows for formal and informal complaint procedures.
  3. Training that is offered to all members of the organization, but mandatory for supervisors and managers.
  4. Effective monitoring mechanisms, to determine whether the complaint structure is trusted.
  5. “An unequivocal commitment from the top that is not just in words but backed up by consistent practice.”

In 2007 there were 12,510 reported cases of sexual harassment resulting in almost $50 million in monetary benefits for charging parties (not including monetary benefits obtained through litigation), according to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

“Prevention is the best tool to eliminate sexual harassment in the workplace,” according to the EEOC.

Visit G.Neil’s HR Library for more information on how to handle workplace diversity, discrimination and harassment.

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