Case #1: Sexual Harassment
Plaintiff Suzy Smith was a 23-year old single mother who was putting herself through college. Smith was formerly employed for Acme Corp and assisted in a program that provided work experience and training for clients with limited work experience. Ms. Smith was assigned to work at an Acme Corp location in Jersey City, which is primarily a day care facility for young children. She worked as an assistant to Jimmy Jones.
Initially, Jones would make passes at Ms. Smith. He would comment on her appearance, touch her buttocks and sides without her consent, and make inappropriate comments toward her. These comments included, “I’d like to give you a test drive,” “I love beautiful black women like you,” and “I am the only man for you.” Ms. Smith requested a transfer away from Acme Corp and was assigned to another family services center as a filing clerk for about one year.
Approximately one year following her transfer, Ms. Smith was informed that she would be transferred back to the Acme Corp center, but in a different position working with children. She was told that she would not be working with Jones. Because she believed that she would not be working with Jones again and that she would be around other teachers and children, Suzy Smith accepted the transfer.
After approximately two months, Ms. Smith was advised that a driver had left Acme Corp and that Jones had requested that Ms. Smith be an Acme Corp driver. Though she questioned the placement, Smith was advised that she would be working with a partner. She felt safe working with her partner, who was the daughter of one of Jones’ friends. When Ms. Smith arrived back at Acme Corp, she was told that she needed to get the van keys from Jones’ office and return them daily. Then, on an almost daily basis, Jones continued his inappropriate comments to Ms. Smith when she retrieved and returned the van keys. These included, “The devil in me wants to sin;” “Men have needs, and I need you;” “I would like to give you a ride when you are ready;” and “My wife doesn’t need to know because a man has needs.” Smith made it clear that these comments made her extremely uncomfortable. She told him to go away, that he was acting inappropriately, and to stop. She told him that if he didn’t leave her alone, she would tell others.
In response, Jones threatened Ms. Smith’s job. He told her that he controlled her job and that she wouldn’t say a thing if she didn’t want her child on the streets. Smiling and laughing, Jones told her, “Keep it quiet and I’ll make you happy” and, “If I’m happy, you’ll be happy.” Because her job at Acme Corp was her only source of income as she continued her college education, Ms. Smith kept quiet as instructed and attempted to endure the harassment.
After about six months in her position as an Acme Corp driver, Jones approached Ms. Smith from behind and rubbed against her with an erect penis. In shock, Ms. Smith quickly walked away. When she looked back at him, he only smiled at her, laughed, and walked in the other direction.
That same month, Ms. Smith arrived at work to find that the door was locked. When she texted Jones and asked to be let in, he responded, “Let superman fly upstairs n you will be cool.” Unsure of what he meant, Smith continued with her job.
Approximately two days later, Jones instructed Smith to come into his office for additional training. Once there, he instructed her to sit in a chair, and he told her that he loved her and wanted to be her man. Jones proceeded to grab her breast, pull down her shirt, and began to forcibly suck on her breast. In response, Ms. Smith shoved Jones away and told him to stop. Jones laughed and told her that she liked it. He claimed that no one would believe her if she said anything and that she would be let go from her job. After this, Jones placed money in Ms. Smith’s bra. Ms. Smith did her best to avoid Jones over the next few weeks.
A few weeks later, Jones told Ms. Smith that she needed to get a key from his office before she started work. As she entered his office, Jones told her to sit down and said, “We can’t control the way we feel about someone” and tried to kiss her. Terrified, Ms. Smith pushed Jones back. He aggressively sat next to her in a chair, placed his hand on her thigh, and told her that he would like to see her “superman,” referring to her tattoo. She was unable to leave because he was forcibly holding her and because she was in fear of what this large man could do to her. Pleading to let her leave and pick up her son, Ms. Smith asked him to move away. Jones told her not yet, and then began to kiss Ms. Smith. He reached under her shirt, pulled down her bra, and began to suck on her breast. Initially frozen in fear, Ms. Smith pushed Jones away and escaped the office.
Ms. Smith knew that she had to report Jones and protect herself. Knowing that some people would not believe her, Ms. Smith went into Jones’ office the next day to return the key and recorded their meeting without his knowledge. When Ms. Smith came into his office, Jones immediately caressed Ms. Smith’s back and tried to kiss her. Jones reminded Ms. Smith that he was “a man with needs.” He told her there is a difference between love and lust and that he wanted her “on the side” and had money for her. He claimed that his actions the previous day were “the devil in [him]” and that his wife did not need to know about what he was doing. Jones tried to kiss Ms. Smith once again, and she pushed him away. He told her not to push away, and said, “Don’t say no.” He proceeded to place a $20 bill in Ms. Smith’s bra, telling her, “This is for you, to show you how much I appreciate you.”
Ms. Smith sent a text to her coworker, informing her that she could not come in the next day because of issues with Jones. Her coworker asked if Jones had made a pass at her, to which Ms. Smith replied, “Yep!”
Ms. Smith spoke to her supervisor to inform her that she was unable to work with Jones anymore due to the sexual harassment. The supervisor replied, “Oh, him again. We are well aware of the complaints against him.” Laughing and making light of Ms. Smith’s complaints, her supervisor left the door open for others outside to hear. Many people walked in during their conversation. There was neither privacy nor confidentiality for such an intimate matter. As Ms. Smith tried to speak with her, her supervisor worked on several other matters. Ms. Smith’s supervisor informed her that another female employee had filed a written complaint of sexual harassment against Jones and implied that no action had been taken against Jones due to the large size of Acme Corp’s site. After their meeting, Ms. Smith was advised to speak to Jones’ supervisor. Jones’ supervisor’s response was only to tell her to “do what [she] [has] to do.”
Ms. Smith was transferred to a new location, but none of her employers took action to investigate Ms. Smith’s allegations. Acme Corp failed to train, monitor, or control its employees to prevent sexual harassment, and employees of Acme Corp knowingly allowed Jimmy Jones to work with young women who were targets for his sexual harassment.
Suzy Smith sued Jimmy Jones, her supervisors, and her employer, for sexual harassment, alleging a hostile work environment and quid pro quo sexual harassment in violation of the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination and vicarious liability for these wrongful actions.
If this situation sounds familiar to you, you don’t have to let it continue. Contact the Mark Law Firm to discuss the facts of your case and how to best protect your rights and your personal safety.