TRENTON, N.J. (CN) - Good ol' boys at the top levels of the New Jersey Chamber of Commerce habitually get drunk on the job and sexually harass women who work for them, and when a new president, a woman, fired one of the chief harassers, the boys got together and found him "a plum and prestigious position in Governor Chris Christie's Office," then fired the president, and a vice president who complained of the harassment, the former VP says.
Carol Gabel sued the New Jersey Chamber of Commerce and four of its top officers in a discrimination and harassment complaint in Mercer County Court. The individual defendants are senior vice president Dana Egreckzy, president Thomas Bracken, Chairman of the Board Jeffrey Scheininger, and former Chairman of the Board Dennis Bone.
Gabel says she worked at the Chamber from 199 until she was fired on March 16 this year.
"The sexual harassment of plaintiff grew out of the 'Old Boy' network and 'culture of intoxication' that existed at the Chamber," Gabel says. She says she was supervised primarily by male department heads, and that "her male department heads and managers regularly left work for lengthy lunches and other outings in which heavy drinking and other inappropriate conduct was commonplace and accepted, and, unfortunately, spilled into the Chamber's workplace environment, all to plaintiff's detriment."
She cites by name three other high-ranking Chamber officials, who are not named as defendants, whose drunken, sexist antics made her "shocked and embarrassed," but says she did not complain because one was her direct supervisor "and she legitimately feared retaliation."
The complaint continues: "Not only was plaintiff subject to a sexually hostile workplace at the Chamber, but the Chamber took no action to protect her from sexual harassment she suffered outside the Chamber to which she was exposed as part of her job responsibilities for fear of risking its relationships with important governmental figures. For example, at the Chamber's 2001 annual congressional dinner, a former New Jersey governor made a sexual comment to plaintiff about the necklace she was wearing, stating, 'nice beads,' while openly ogling her breasts. The obvious implication of his comment was 'nice breasts.' Plaintiff's supervisor, James Leonard, witnessed this offensive comment but took no action to reprimand or correct the former governor.
"Shortly thereafter, Leonard sent plaintiff to deliver some papers to the New Jersey State House where she again encountered the former governor. The former governor firmly grabbed plaintiff's coat collar and aggressively asked her when they were having dinner. Though threatened and unnerved by such a powerful person in New Jersey politics, plaintiff declined. Fearful and anxious, plaintiff ran back to the Chamber where she immediately informed Egenton of the incident. Egenton then informed plaintiff's direct supervisor, Leonard, of what had occurred, but he took no action to address plaintiff's legitimate concerns about this inappropriate conduct and future interactions with the former governor. Instead, Leonard continuously teased plaintiff about him. At one point, plaintiff walked into her office and found photographs of the former governor papering her phone, desk and walls. By these actions, Leonard effectively endorsed the former governor's offensive conduct and continued to contribute to the sexually hostile environment at the Chamber."
Gabel says she was not the only woman who was sexually harassed by bosses, and that they harassed another woman "so aggressively that their harassment contributed to her ultimate resignation."