Case #4: Age Discrimination Harassment
Plaintiff Suzy Smith was hired as a front-of-the-house manager at Acme Corp. Prior to her employment, she had suffered injuries to her ankle, making it difficult for her to walk long distances. As a result, she had a permanent handicapped parking permit.
From the time of her hiring at Acme Corp, Ms. Smith endured harassment from her co-workers because of her disability, age, and race. Her supervisor, Jimmy Jones, referred to her as “old woman,” “old woman Suzy,” or “liver spots.” Ms. Smith often got comments such as, “Well, you’re old. Of course you don’t remember that.” When she complained to her general manager and to her senior manager, she was told that “this is just the way things are” and that she needed to “deal with it.”
Suzy Smith also faced harassment from the back of the house, as the cooks in the kitchen would often make comments to Ms. Smith, too, asking if she had a “hearing problem,” or if she was “too old to hear properly.” Ms. Smith complained again, and the kitchen staff was merely told to “stop harassing” her. No disciplinary action was taken against any of the kitchen staff.
Ms. Smith made a formal complaint to Acme Corp about the negative comments made towards her by other workers about her age. A human resources representative advised her that they had completed an investigation into the matter and that there was a remedy, but would not tell Ms. Smith what action had actually been taken.
The kitchen workers continued to harass Ms. Smith about her use of the handicapped parking spot in front of the building. They scolded her for “cheating the system,” claiming that there was “nothing wrong with [her].” She made it clear to the executive chef that these actions offended her, but the chef never took action to reprimand his staff.
The most vocal kitchen staff member referred to Ms. Smith as “gay.” Ms. Smith complained once more about the harassment, but still, no action was taken. A few months later, the kitchen staff member threatened and then assaulted Ms. Smith by kicking her injured ankle, yelling, “I told you not to park in the handicapped spot!” When Ms. Smith escaped from the kitchen staff member, he called back to her, “I didn’t know anything was really wrong with you.”
Following the incident, Ms. Smith had to take three sick days because she was in fear of another assault. When Ms. Smith returned to work, the kitchen staff yelled at her, “We’re going to get you, Whitey!” as soon as she entered the kitchen. Ms. Smith, terrified by the comment, immediately left the premises and told her supervisor, Jimmy Jones, that it was not safe for her to continue to work at Acme Corp.
Suzy Smith sued Jimmy Jones, Acme Corp, and the kitchen staff member for violating the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination. Her claims included discrimination based on disability or perceived disability and age, harassment and the creation of a hostile work environment based on age and perceived sexual orientation, retaliation for making lawful complaints, negligent supervision and hiring employees, and assault and battery.
If your employer has ignored your reports of harassment and discrimination in the workplace, or worse, retaliated against you for making them in the first place, an experienced employment attorney can help you figure out how best to assert your rights. Contact the Mark Law Firm to discuss the facts of your employment case and discuss your legal options.