In Cerdeira v. Martindale-Hubbell, 402 N.J. Super. 486 (App. Div. 2008), decided on September 18, 2008, the Appellate Division held that an employer can be liable for sexual harassment committed by Defendant’s a co-worker, even if the employer did not know that the harassment was occurring.
It is well established that an employer can be held liable under a negligence theory for the sexual or other harassment committed by a supervisor if the employer does not have an effective anti-harassment policy in place. In Cerdeira, the Appellate Division confirmed that liability under a negligence theory is not limited to harassment committed by supervisors, but also applies to harassment committed by co-workers. Arguably, this is an expansion of an employer’s potential liability under New Jersey law, which had not previously ruled on the issue of employer liability for co-worker harassment.
The Cerdeira decision highlights the importance for employers to implement effective anti-harassment policies and to make employees aware of those policies through publications and training.