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Sexual harassment suits claims CEO threatened, attacked employee

The New Jersey Law Against Discrimination bans discrimination at work based on a host of familiar employee characteristics like race, nationality and religion. The statute is an expansion of federal worker protections. Sexual harassment is illegal in both state and federal laws.

A salesperson for a copier company recently filed a federal lawsuit against her employer. The 22-year-old woman said it was clear within weeks of her hiring that the head of the company was interested in her sexually. The man reportedly smacked the employee's buttocks during a business outing to a karaoke bar.

When the salesperson rejected the persistent man, the boss allegedly offered to lavish her with financial rewards in exchange for sex. Another episode allegedly took place in January 2013. The CEO apparently groped and tried to kiss the woman.

Two months later, the woman and another employee agreed to go with the CEO to get massages. The defendant entered the woman's massage room and molested her. He used his job status as a threat when she rejected him.

The salesperson said she was attacked days later, after accepting a ride home in the boss's chauffeured vehicle. The civil claim and pending criminal charges allege the man tore off the woman's clothes, choked and sexually abused her. Again, the CEO reminded the woman of his power over her job.

The woman fled and contacted authorities. She vowed not to go back to the workplace, where her boss promised to replace her "anytime" unless she complied with his sexual demands. Damages are being sought for financial losses, including wages and emotional torment.

Employers can violate the state law's sexual harassment provision without making physical contact. A Bergen County worker may register a hostile work environment claim due to gender-based, but not necessarily sexual, verbal abuses. The more obvious harassment occurs when sexual acts become a condition for hiring, promotion or continued employment.

Source: New York Daily News, "Copier company CEO sexually abused 22-year-old staffer and taunted, ‘I can replace you anytime’: suit" Daniel Beekman and Dareh Gregorian, Mar. 26, 2014

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