Attorney General Gurbir Grewal has announced that the Division on Civil Rights (DCR) has issued Findings of Probable Cause against an employer in Bayonne accused of discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation in violation of the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (LAD).
LAD prohibits discrimination and harassment in employment based on actual or perceived sexual orientation, gender, gender identity or expression, or other protected characteristics. Prohibited bias-based harassment, including sexual harassment, can take various forms. Workplace sexual harassment is unlawful when it is so severe or pervasive that it creates a hostile working environment.
The DCR has found probable cause that the complainant was subject to a hostile work environment by her employer, Professional Touch Dry Cleaning & Apparel Repairs at 482 Ave. C, because its owner allegedly regularly made derisive remarks about her sexual orientation to customers and coworkers.
“There simply is no place in the workplace for unwanted touching, lewd comments, inappropriate remarks about an individual’s sexual orientation or other forms of harassment,” Grewal said. “Employers have a duty to ensure a discrimination- and harassment-free work environment. When they fail to do so, the Division on Civil Rights will take action.”
“Every person in New Jersey has the right to be free from sexual harassment and harassment based on sexual orientation at work,” said DCR Deputy Director Rosemary DiSavino. “If employers subject their employees to illegal harassment, DCR will aggressively enforce the law.”
Professional Touch Dry Cleaning & Apparel Repairs has denied the allegations.
Alleged hostile work environment
The complainant was hired as a counter employee in 2017 and quit her job after approximately two years because the business owner allegedly subjected her to a hostile working environment by openly disclosing, discussing, and deriding her sexual orientation.
The complainant stated that throughout her employment, the owner allegedly repeatedly made discriminatory comments about the fact that she is a lesbian, in front of employees and customers.
DCR interviewed several current employees, former employees, and customers of Professional Touch who corroborated the complainant’s claims.
One former employee recalled that the owner made a disgusted facial expression while telling her that the complainant is gay. A customer described an instance in which he observed the owner mocking the complainant behind her back by making a lewd gesture alluding to her sexual orientation.
A Finding of Probable Cause does not represent final adjudication of the cases. Rather, it means the state has concluded its preliminary investigations and determined there is sufficient evidence to support a reasonable suspicion that LAD was violated, and to prosecute the case in public hearings or lawsuits in court.
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