Transportation Company Owner Ordered to Pay Ex-Employee $258K for Sexual Harassment, Wrongful Termination
TRENTON – Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal and the Division on Civil Rights (DCR) announced today that the owner of a New Jersey transportation company has been ordered to pay a former employee $258,000 after the owner was found to have committed “egregious” sexual harassment of the woman, and to have fired her as retaliation after she filed a complaint against him with DCR.
According to the findings of an administrative law judge, which were later adopted by the Director of DCR, Curtis Horn, owner of Irvington-based Tyce Transportation, hired the complainant as a school bus aide in November 2010 and fired her on November 1, 2012. The firing came 10 days after the woman filed a complaint against Horn with DCR. The Division is withholding the complainant’s name due to the nature of the allegations.
During her employment, the complainant endured persistent verbal and physical sexual harassment by Horn, according to the administrative findings of fact. Horn made offensive sexual propositions and comments to the woman, including telling her that she would look good in his bed. Horn then lured the complainant into his office, locked the door and grabbed her and started kissing her, the administrative law judge found. Although the woman escaped his grasp, Horn refused to unlock the door until he heard someone approaching.
In addition to paying the ex-employee a total of $258,568 to compensate for her emotional distress and lost wages, Horn also has been ordered to pay the State a total of $37,870. That amount covers a statutory penalty, as well as the State’s investigative costs. Altogether, then, Horn’s required payout totals $296,438.
“There simply is no room in the workplace – or any other place – for sexual harassment. Everyone has a right to do his or her job free of unwanted sexual innuendo, inappropriate touching and unwelcome sexual advances,” said Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal. “Business owners, managers and supervisors should understand that there can be significant financial and reputational consequences for tolerating workplace harassment.”
“For far too long, people have considered sexual harassment to be ‘business as usual.’ It’s not,” said DCR Director Rachel Wainer Apter. “No one should have to accept harassment as an everyday part of his or her job, and we are here to ensure that no one will have to.”
The harassed Tyce employee earned $8.50 per hour working two hours in the morning and two hours in the afternoon, five days a week, on a bus route for special needs students attending the Center for Autism.
The complainant repeatedly rejected Horn’s unwanted sexual advances and sought help from a co-worker, according to the administrative law judge’s findings. Once Horn was confronted about the sexual harassment, he cut her hours.
Eventually, Horn falsely told the complainant that the Center for Autism bus route contract had been lost, and terminated her employment. The woman later learned that her route had continued with a newly-hired bus aide.
DCR investigated the complaint and issued a Finding of Probable Cause. An attempt at conciliation did not resolve the matter and, in April 2018, DCR began prosecuting the case in the Office of Administrative Law.
In January 2019 – after repeated failure by Horn to respond to various filings and motions in the case by DCR -- an administrative law judge issued an Initial Decision crediting the former employee’s allegations and finding that Horn had engaged in sexual harassment and retaliatory firing.
Subsequently, the administrative law judge presided at a hearing on remedies in which both Horn and the complainant testified.
The administrative law judge found the complainant’s hearing testimony credible while dismissing Horn’s denials as not believable and reminiscent of “a person trying to persuade that the impossible happened.”
Last month, DCR Director Wainer Apter -- in accordance with New Jersey’s Law Against Discrimination (LAD) -- reviewed the administrative law judge’s Initial Decision and recommended remedies.
On August 12, Director Wainer Apter issued a Final Decision adopting the Initial Decision and ordering Horn to pay the compensation, statutory penalties and other costs recommended by the administrative law judge. Director Wainer Apter also ordered implementation of various LAD-related policy and training reforms.
Among those reforms, Tyce Transportation and any company or business in which Horn is affiliated must develop an anti-discrimination and anti-harassment policy that is consistent with the LAD, and undergo LAD training.
In addition, Tyce and Horn must report to DCR any complaints of discrimination or harassment they receive for a period of three years.
Legal Specialist Alexis Franklin handled the investigation for DCR, and retired Deputy Attorney General Beverly Lapsley handled the prosecution at the Office of Administrative Law.