There is no question that sexual harassment, assault, and other inappropriate behavior can lead to employment law violations and litigation, but it can also lead to business disputes, as recently highlighted by one attorney seeking permission from a judge to sanction dissolving his law firm due to his partner’s alleged behavior toward women who worked at the firm.
The lawsuit filed by the attorney against his partner alleges that not only did his partner engage in sexual harassment against several secretaries, but had affairs with others, and a number of them quit as a result. He requests to disband the firm because of the “sexually predatory conduct” of the defendant, his partner. As a result of this alleged egregious conduct, management of the partnership, he argues, has become impossible, and dissolution inevitable.
The Case Circumstances
Court documents indicate that, after being confronted, the partner swore that he would not continue the behavior; specifically, that he would “never again engage in any form of sexual improprieties or other sexual conduct with any employees of the partnership.” However, inappropriate images of another secretary were then found on his computer; an act that allegedly cost the attorney/firm an important business deal.
The inappropriate behavior allegedly continued, and included Christmas parties, where the partner behaved inappropriately with female coworkers, following home another female secretary, and allegedly threatening to withhold bonuses from two other secretaries unless they joined him at a bar. According to the lawsuit, each of these employees quit as a result of this inappropriate behavior.
Employer and Business Liability for Sexual Harassment
Workers subjected to sexual harassment and a hostile work environment—which includes the circumstances described in this case—have the right to bring claims against the owners of the business and any supervisors who stand by and do nothing to protect their workers. If they are put on notice that there are problems involving sexual harassment, and they fail to address it, they can be deemed by a court to be promoting a culture that enables it.
Sexual harassment committed by an employer can open a business up to claims under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which makes compensatory and punitive damages available where there has been intentional discrimination. The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that employers are always liable for hostile work environments created by a supervisor when the discrimination results in a change in employment status; not just related to firing, but also reassignments, a failure to promote, or a change in benefits.
If You Have Questions or Concerns, Contact Our Experienced New Jersey Employment Law Attorneys
If you have experienced sexual harassment or employment discrimination, or are an employer who has concerns about related allegations, contact our experienced employment law attorneys today to find out how we can help.