A New Jersey Superior Court judge, citing a 2008 New Jersey Supreme Court decision, recently held that "allegations of indifference" were not enough on their own to prove a supervisor's liability for creating a hostile work environment under New Jersey laws against discrimination.
The judge made his ruling in response to a motion to dismiss a complaint against a suspended police chief arising from complaints of sexual harassment made to him by a female officer against her direct supervisor. By holding the chief could not be held legally responsible solely for his inaction, the court dismissed the complaint against him on Sept. 16, though the woman's direct supervisor, as well as the city of Hackensack, remains as defendants. The chief also faces several other legal matters, including an apparently unrelated criminal trial for a pattern of misconduct, insurance fraud and witness tampering.
The complaint filed by the female officer alleges her supervisor looked at pornographic magazines in front of her, made remarks about her body, and retaliated by assigning her to walking posts when she rejected his advances. She says she delayed reporting the abuse because she feared retaliation if she filed a complaint. When she did complain, she says the police chief did nothing to stop the offensive conduct.
Her attorney noted the judge's decision dismissing the complaint against the police chief was made without prejudice and indications were that the lawyer intended to challenge the ruling. Separately, the supervisor directly accused of sexual harassment has also filed a motion to dismiss, which is pending decision. There was no indication that the city of Hackensack had made a similar application to the court.
Source: North Jersey, "Zisa dropped from lawsuit file by Hackensack cop," Stephanie Akin, Oct. 3, 2011