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Sexual harassment claim against new Haddon Heights mayor

When an employee first experiences sexual harassment, they can have a tendency to purposely ignore it. Some people are fearful that if they report misconduct, they may be retaliated against - or even fired.

In Haddon Heights, about 80 miles south of Newark, the borough's acting clerk filed sexual harassment allegations against a city councilman months after the misconduct began. The complaint was filed in June and became public in early November, just one week before the accused, then councilman Ed Forte, was elected mayor.

The matter came to light during a public-comment session at the borough's council meeting in early November, according to a news report.

While the details of the complaint have not been publicized, the clerk reportedly said that one incident took place at the New Jersey State League of Municipalities convention. She also said she was sexually harassed in the borough on a variety of occasions, and that she is currently working in a hostile environment, saying the former councilman retaliated by attempting to remove her job titles.

The state's Attorney General's office accepted the woman's evidence of sexual harassment and workplace aggravation and is currently investigating to determine whether the complaint has probable cause. The borough had previously arranged for a private investigation of the woman's complaint, and that report may be considered by the state as well.

The clerk said earlier this month that the retaliation in her workplace has not stopped since she filed her complaint. Nonetheless, she said that she regrets not filing a complaint when the first incident of sexual harassment occurred.

While it remains to be seen what the outcome of these allegations will be, this case underscores the difficulties that victims of sexual harassment may experience. In addition to feeling abused by the workplace misconduct, the process of reporting it can be difficult to navigate. However, both federal and state laws provide important safeguards to protect all employees against sexual harassment, and it is important that victims of sexual harassment come forward to protect their rights in the workplace.

Source: Courier-Post, "Harassment complaint costly to Haddon Heights," Courier Post Online News Staff, Nov. 5, 2011

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