Who would have thought dropping the name “Osama” could get you out of trouble in a U.S. courtroom?
But in an unusual twist, a Passaic clothier won a new trial after the state Appellate Division overturned a sexual harassment judgment against him. It ruled that the jury was wrongly prejudiced by testimony introduced at trial quoting the clothier as saying he had dined with Osama bin Laden and calling him a “good man” who’d been “misjudged.”
The case: A female salesperson in his shop had won a $90,000 judgment against the clothier, who allegedly had subjected her to daily harassment. She claimed he made racist and sexual remarks and also engaged in inappropriate physical contact.
During the trial, the clothier seemed determined to lose the case, openly demeaning the woman and gesturing as if threatening to slit her throat. He also began to pull down his pants on the witness stand while testifying about the location of a tattoo.
The judges may have averted their eyes then, but noted in their decision that they couldn’t turn “a blind eye” to the prejudice resulting from introducing the testimony about dinner with Osama. They ordered a new trial.
- Seek legal assistance when negotiating contract terms with union
- Ensure your harassment policy includes requirement to promptly report violations
- Make sure training is available to all
- Keep cases from escalating: When hot-headed manager blows up, order cooling-off period
- You can land in trouble for trying to stop harassment