TRENTON, N.J. (CN) – A New Jersey appeals court revived an employee’s claim that her employer was liable for a co-worker’s sexual harassment because it lacked an effective sexual harassment policy.
Robin Cerdeira, a senior analyst at Martindale-Hubbell, claimed that a male co-worker sent her pornographic photos, tried to engage her in lewd phone calls, and left a bra, thong, perfume and camera at her workstation.
She sued her co-worker and employer for sexual harassment, claiming the company’s lack of an effective sexual harassment policy fostered a hostile work environment.
Martindale-Hubbell successfully moved for summary judgment on the basis that it wasn’t liable for a co-worker’s conduct.
On appeal, Cerdeira claimed that the trial court had erred in dismissing her claim simply because her employer didn’t have an effective sexual harassment policy in place.
The appellate court refused to limit the negligence-based theory of liability to cases involving harassment by supervisors and not wo-workers. “To do so could potentially discourage employers from adopting proactive sexual harassment policies that are well-published and directed to all employees,” Judge Sapp-Peterson wrote.
The judge clarified that the court was not ruling on whether the lack of a sexual harassment policy constitutes negligence, only that the employer was not entitled to summary judgment.