After 8 years, $1 million ends harassment suit

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in Discrimination and Harassment,Human Resources

The town of Morristown has settled a long-running sexual harassment case for just under $1 million.

The case involved IT specialist Ann Marie Spagnola, who alleged her boss, Eric Maurer, subjected her to sexual harassment by exposing her to sexually explicit materials. In one case, she was called into his office to remove a sexually explicit screen saver from his computer.

Spagnola claimed she complained about Maurer’s behavior to Morristown Mayor John Delaney, who responded angrily each time. The mayor denied this.

When Spagnola submitted her resignation, Delaney changed his tune. He asked her to withdraw her resignation and promised to investigate her complaints. He hired Michael Rich, an attorney, to investigate the complaints.

Rich allegedly told Spagnola that Maurer hadn’t violated any town policy and, because he never touched or solicited Spagnola, no sexual harassment had taken place.

Spagnola eventually resigned and filed suit against the town, Delaney, Maurer and Rich. The court eventually released the individuals from the complaint.

As the depositions unfolded, it became clear the town had no sexual harassment policy. So while Rich was correct in stating Maurer had not violated policy, Spagnola’s attorneys found the assertion a bit disingenuous.

Finally, this spring, eight years after Spagnola filed her first complaint and five years after she resigned, the parties settled for $981,990.

Note: Every employer must have a sexual harassment policy in place. Morristown’s no-policy/no-problem approach just won’t work in court.

Any sexual harassment complaint must be investigated fairly and in good faith. Finally, unless you’re in the adult entertainment business, there is no reason to have sexually explicit material on employer-owned or controlled computers.

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