Unbearable work environment?
The work environment in the District Attorney’s office at Niagara County District was unbearable, according to the allegations made by the Assistant DA, Elizabeth Donatello, who has filed a sexual discrimination lawsuit against the office.
Discrimination based on gender, judgments about women’s appearance, including weight, hair style and size of breasts, were some of the accusations made in the lawsuit against the DA’s office.
Supporting her claims are the findings of the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which observed that she was harassed and discriminated against when she was employed under Michael Violante, the Niagara County District Attorney. Violante was against women getting pregnant while they were employed in the DA’s office because they would take the full maternity leave, according to the lawsuit.
Claude Joerg, the county attorney, has denied the allegations and said that they were baseless.
Supreme Court ruling offers protection to employers against sexual harassment suits
The new ruling by the Supreme Court, in New Jersey, states that if an employer has taken steps to prevent and correct sexually harassing behavior, and despite this, the plaintiff fails to take advantage of such corrective opportunities presented by the employer, the employer may avoid being held liable.
Such a law would help prevent incidences of sexual harassment because it encourages the employers to initiate training and set up effective anti-harassment policies, according to Justice Anne Patterson.
A step backward?
However, not all agree with this opinion, including Justice Barry Albin and Chief Justice Stuart Rabner. They think this law gives more protection to supervisors to abuse their position and authority, and makes it difficult for employees subject to harassment to complain.
The Supreme Court ruling comes in the wake of the lawsuit filed for discrimination against the state Department of Corrections, by Ilda Aguas, a corrections officer. Aguas first started out in 2004 and in 2009 her supervisor Darryl McClish, and officer Robin Hill, made unacceptable comments about her and told a female officer to pat-frisk her, according to her lawsuit. She worked at the Edna Mahan Correctional Facility for Women in Union Township in Hunterdon County.Even if you work in an uncomfortable environment, because of excessive government regulation and high taxes, the job opportunities are scarce.
She did not file a written complaint. However, based on her claims, the department investigated the incident in 2010, and concluded that the allegations were baseless, according to the court documents.
The department said that it had taken prompt corrective action and had investigated the matter thoroughly, according to the document. Although Aguas filed a lawsuit, the trial court dismissed it saying she should have given a written complaint, as per the policy. There was no evidence that her supervisor used his authority to control her work environment and to sexually harass her, according to the appellate court.
The case is now back in trial court after the Supreme Court ruling, which has set new standards for the case. Sexual harassment attorney for Aguas said that the ruling benefited his client. This is positive since Aguas seems to be clean in this situation.
Many sexual harassment attorneys had argued on the same standard for many years, according to the attorney, and this has now been officially recognized by the Supreme Court.