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8 N.J.A.R. 481

Vornado, Inc.; Vasto, Susan v
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Citation: 8 N.J.A.R. 481
Decision Date: 1983
Agency: DIVISION ON CIVIL RIGHTS
Synopsis: Complainant alleged that she had been sexually harassed while working for respondent and had been terminated from her position as a reprisal for complaining about that sexual harassment. The administrative law judge assigned to the case found that complainant had begun to complain about the conduct of a fellow employee shortly after she began to work with him. Her complaints were originally directed to her co-workers and later her supervisor, who advised her not to complain to the manager. Despite these warnings, complainant went to the manager with her .grievance and shortly thereafter she received a corrective notice for lateness. While finding that complainant's work performance had suffered, the judge determined that it was the conduct of her fellow employee which was to blame. The judge found that complainant's fellow employee made sexual innuendos and comments to female employees and, on occasion, had touched them. Despite the female employees' protests, the judge found respondent's management had done nothing substantive to curb this conduct. The judge also found that this conduct had caused complainant to feel humiliated and ashamed and, in addition, she had had to consult her physician for a nervous condition resulting from the complained-of conduct. The judge found that shortly after complainant complained to management, she received a disciplinary notice and was then terminated allegedly for often being late for work and manifesting a disruptive attitude in the office. After termination, complainant diligently sought alternative employment which she found after a six-month period. The judge concluded that complainant had been subject to sexual harassment as a term and condition of employment and that the reasons given for her dismissal were pretextual. The judge rejected respondent's argument that N.J.S.A. 10:5-12(d), which forbids reprisals against any individual filing a complaint under the kaw Against Discrimination, did not apply since complainant did not file her complaint until after she had been terminated. Accordingly, the judge awarded complainant back pay for the period in which she was unemployed along with damages for humiliation, pain and suffering. Upon review of this decision, the Director of the Division on Civil Rights adopted these findings and conclusions as her own. The Director rejected respondent's argument that it was not liable for the complained-of conduct since it was initiated by an employee and not a supervisor. The employee was found to be an agent of respondent and complainant's supervisor was aware of the harassment and thus respondent was responsible. In addition, the Director restored to the award of damages the amount of unemployment compensation originally deducted by the judge based upon the Division's policy to include such amounts in compensatory awards since they are subject to repayment by complainants. Jan Alan Brody, Esq., for complainant (Checki & Politan, attorneys) Max Manshel, Esq., for respondent Initial Decision