Ivan v. County of Middlesex, 2009 WL 1241600 (D.N.J., May 6, 2009) – In its first decision on the issue following Cicchetti v. Morris County Sheriff’s Office, 194 N.J. 563 (2008), reported in the June 2008 issue of The New Jersey eAuthority, the New Jersey District Court refused to grant summary judgment to individual supervisors on plaintiffs’ claims of “aiding and abetting” liability. Although not all of the supervisors in question were involved in the harassment, they demonstrated an obvious unwillingness to address plaintiffs’ complaints or remedy the harassment, and berated the plaintiffs for complaining. The court distinguished these facts from those of Cicchetti, where the supervisors advised the plaintiff to file a report and took steps (albeit unsuccessful) to remedy the harassment. The court further rejected the idea that a supervisor cannot be held liable for “aiding and abetting” his or her own harassing conduct.
Employers should be mindful of this decision when training supervisors and advise them that they may in fact be held individually liable under the NJLAD, even if they do not actively assist the harasser, by being willfully indifferent to an employee’s complaints, by failing to take proper action to remedy reported violations and, potentially, by their own harassing acts.