Lawsuit Claims Sexual Harassment, Pregnancy Discrimination by New Jersey Hospital

A lawsuit filed earlier this year by a former hospital security supervisor alleges sexual harassment and pregnancy discrimination. Russo v. Robert Wood Johnson Health Sys., No. L-003497-15, complaint (N.J. Super. Ct., Middlesex Co., Jun. 16, 2015). New Jersey law specifically prohibits pregnancy discrimination, while federal law considers it a form of sex discrimination. Both federal and New Jersey law consider sexual harassment to be a type of unlawful sex discrimination, to the extent that it either directly affects the conditions of employment or creates a hostile work environment.

The plaintiff worked for the defendant hospital from 2008 until June 2015. Her most recent position was as security supervisor. She alleges that her supervisor subjected her to various forms of sexual harassment, including “sexually explicit text messages and emails,” for a period of about two years. The supervisor’s behavior towards her changed, she claims, when he learned that she was pregnant in June 2013. Instead of sexually explicit remarks, he allegedly began making “disparaging and unwarranted comments about her work performance.” The plaintiff specifically states that she had requested a promotion and raise in spring 2013, after she had taken on additional job duties with her supervisor’s alleged approval. She claims that the supervisor never followed up on her request after learning of her pregnancy.

This sort of conduct continued, the plaintiff claims, throughout her pregnancy. Before she went on maternity leave in January 2014, the supervisor allegedly told her that taking leave would put her job in jeopardy. She returned to work in July 2014, and claims that her supervisor and others began harassing her with regard to issues like breastfeeding. She states that she was initially allowed to use her private office to pump breast milk, but the hospital’s human resources (HR) director eventually told her that she had to use a lactation room in a different building. Because of its location, the plaintiff claims that the time needed to walk there from her office and back would not give her enough time to complete her job duties.

The hospital terminated the plaintiff’s employment in June 2015, and she filed suit in state court the same month. The lawsuit names the hospital, its parent company, the plaintiff’s supervisor, the HR director, and another official as defendants. In addition to claims for sexual harassment and pregnancy discrimination, she alleges that the hospital withdrew permission to use her own office to pump breast milk in order to retaliate for her complaints to HR about her supervisor.

The New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (NJLAD) prohibits employment discrimination based on a wide range of factors, including sex and pregnancy. N.J. Rev. Stat. § 10:5-12(a). New Jersey. Under federal law, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended by the Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978, defines sex discrimination to include discrimination on the basis of “pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions.” 42 U.S.C. § 2000e(k). Neither the NJLAD nor Title VII expressly mentions sexual harassment as a form of sex discrimination, but numerous courts have held that harassment at a level that creates a hostile work environment violates anti-discrimination law. See, e.g. Meritor Savings Bank v. Vinson, 477 U.S. 57, 66-67 (1986); Erickson v. Marsh & McLennan Co., 117 N.J. 539, 556-57 (1990).

If you need to speak to an employment discrimination attorney in New Jersey or New York, contact the Resnick Law Group today through our website, at 973-781-1204, or at (646) 867-7997.

More Blog Posts:

Airlines Operating in New York and New Jersey Face Criticism for Alleged Sex Discrimination and Other Labor Practices, The New Jersey Employment Law Firm Blog, July 3, 2015

Supreme Court Rules in Favor of Pregnant Employee Who Claims She Was Denied an Accommodation for Lifting Restrictions, The New Jersey Employment Law Firm Blog, May 5, 2015

Pregnancy Now a Protected Class Under New Jersey’s Law Against Discrimination, The New Jersey Employment Law Firm Blog, February 6, 2014

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