NJ dealership to receptionist: You can file assault charges … but he’s a really good customer
DENVILLE — A former receptionist who was inappropriately touched by a customer of a Morris County car dealership has lost her discrimination case against her former employers.
Nicole Prager sued Joyce Honda claiming they retaliated after she pressed charges against a high-profile customer who had tugged at her shirt and exposed her bra. She was 20 years old at the time.
The customer ended up pleading guilty in municipal court to offensive touching and paid a fine.
Prager said the dealership had initially discouraged her from filing a police report when the general manager pointed out that the man was a good customer who had purchased 20 cars over the years and visited the dealership monthly for car service.
After she filed the police report, she said the work environment changed and colleagues stopped talking to her. She was reprimanded with two warnings after leaving work early on two occasions and she quit soon thereafter.
The trial judge dismissed her lawsuit, explaining that the state Law Against Discrimination covers conduct by employers, not customers.
An appellate court panel on Monday turned down Prager’s appeal. The panel, however, disagreed with the trial judge’s ruling that filling a police report against a customer was not a protected activity under the discrimination law.
Still, that wasn’t enough for the lawsuit to be reinstated on appeal.
While the appellate decision says Prager could prove that the dealership retaliated, under the law she still had to prove that she suffered as a consequence of that retaliation.
The judges noted that she resigned immediately after receiving a reprimand and that the dealership offered to make the reprimands go away.
“Accepting that as true, no reasonable juror could find that conduct ‘so intolerable that a reasonable person would be forced to resign rather than continue to endure it.'”
Prager’s attorney, Colin M. Page of Berkowitz, Lichtstein, Kuritsky, Giasullo & Gross in Roseland, declined to comment Tuesday. The dealership was represented by Michael F. Brandman and Francine M. Chillemi of Weiler & Brandman.
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Sergio Bichao is deputy digital editor at New Jersey 101.5. Send him news tips: Call 609-438-1015 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.