Monday, February 14, 2011

Recent New Jersey Appellate Division decision reinforces the need for employers to adopt an appropriately drafted anti-harassment policy, training on
Lowenstein Sandler PC
Julie Levinson Werner
February 3 2011

Employment attorneys and human resource professionals have long recognized the importance of implementing an anti-harassment policy.

In addition to improving morale and providing clear guidance to employees in terms of what conduct in the workplace is and is not acceptable, such a policy, according to federal and state law, may provide an employer with a safe haven from discrimination claims. However, a recent New Jersey Appellate Division decision, Allen v. Adecco, Inc., et al., demonstrates that having a policy alone will be insufficient to provide an employer with the legal protection it needs. Essential components of an effective anti-harassment policy are: a formal prohibition of harassment; formal and informal complaint structures; antiharassment training; monitoring mechanisms for assessing the effectiveness of the policies and complaint procedures; and an unequivocal and consistent commitment to intolerance of harassment. In Allen, the New Jersey Appellate Division reversed the summary judgment order entered by the lower court, finding genuine issues of material fact as to whether the employer’s anti-harassment policy met the standards necessary to defeat a claim of negligence or vicarious liability under the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (“NJLAD”). As discussed below, the court’s decision contains important lessons for all employers, executives, and human resource personnel.

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