High Profile Lawsuit Demonstrates Why New Jersey Employers Should Always Protect Workers From Unlawful Sex Harassment

00019 morguefile username MaxStraeten.jpgIn August, an undisclosed settlement was reached in a highly publicized sexual harassment and race discrimination case. According to a document filed in a Savannah, Georgia federal court, both sides agreed to settle a lawsuit that was filed against celebrity television cook Paula Deen and her brother, Bubba Hiers. The case was brought by a former manager at Uncle Bubba’s Seafood and Oyster House. The woman’s complaint alleged that the restaurant’s employment practices treated black workers unfairly. She also claimed that she endured sexual harassment from Hiers and was forced to listen to racially offensive statements at work. Before a settlement was reached, a federal judge threw out the white woman’s race discrimination claims for lack of standing.

A nationwide uproar against Deen began after she apparently admitted to making racially derogatory statements during a deposition related to the case. As a result, the celebrity’s television show was cancelled and a number of retailers reportedly dropped her numerous product lines. Prior to the lawsuit, the Paula Deen franchise was reportedly worth millions. At the request of the parties, the case was dismissed with prejudice.

In New York, New Jersey, and across the rest of the country, employers are not legally required to treat all of their workers fairly. For example, an employer may engage in nepotism, favoritism, or simple “office politics.” An employee who is treated unfairly may seek legal action only if the discrimination resulted from his or her gender, race, age, religion, pregnancy status, a mental or physical disability, color, national origin, sexual orientation, veteran or military status, or another legally protected status.

Employers in New Jersey and New York must provide all workers, regardless of gender, with a workplace environment that is free from sexual and other unlawful harassment. As this case demonstrates, an employer’s failure to address employee behavior that violates sexual harassment policies can expose a company to potentially costly lawsuits and place other workers at risk for mistreatment.

Most employment law complaints in the State of New Jersey involve sexual harassment or discrimination. Data compiled by the nation’s Equal Employment Opportunity Commission states there were 624 sexual harassment or discrimination cases filed in New Jersey in 2011. The number of sexual harassment complaints filed in our state has also allegedly increased by about 10 percent since 2006. At the same time, the number of sex harassment cases filed across the country as a whole dropped by approximately 5.5 percent. If you believe you were the victim of workplace sexual harassment or discrimination, you should consult with a skilled New Jersey or New York employment lawyer.

The experienced employment attorneys at the Resnick Law Group represent current and former workers in both New Jersey and New York with legal matters that involve discrimination and sexual harassment at work. To discuss your situation with a caring advocate, please contact the Resnick Law Group through our website or give us a call at 973-781-1204 or 646-867-7997.

More Blog Posts:

Paramus Party Company Settles Sexual Harassment Case Filed on Behalf of Terminated Teen Worker, The New Jersey Employment Law Firm Blog, August 20, 2013
MLB Adopts New Policy Against Sexual Orientation Harassment and Discrimination in New Jersey and Elsewhere, The New Jersey Employment Law Firm Blog, August 7, 2013
Additional Resources:

Paula Deen Discrimination Lawsuit Settled Out Of Court, by the Associated Press, dfw.cbslocal.com

Photo credit: MaxStraeten, morgueFile

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