Sexual harassment is never acceptable, and it is illegal in the workplace. This includes situations where the harasser is a supervisor or boss. Unfortunately, it can be very difficult to “fight back” in these situations.
Former Mercer County Prosecutor, Joseph Bocchini, was well-known for making the occasionally crude or off-the-cuff remark, but his subordinate, known only as Jane Doe, has filed a complaint against him for sexual harassment for more than just a few stray comments.
The woman, who worked for the prosecutor’s office for roughly 19 years, reports that she was subjected to unwanted sexual advances and sexual comments from the former prosecutor on a regular basis. The comments allegedly included things like “Bang me at your leisure,” “F**king leather-I love it,” and “I’m wearing your favorite cologne.” He also reportedly made comments about the woman’s body parts as well.
The woman also reported that Bocchini engaged in unwanted touching and forced himself on her. She states that the former prosecutor also committed assault and battery in participating in this type of practice. Apparently, the actions started in 2003, when Bocchini acquired direct supervisory over the woman. The advances continued even after the woman told him to stop.
Accusations and Investigations
Former Prosecutor Bocchini retired in March 2015, and allegations of sexual harassment surfaced just a month later. An anonymous letter was sent to The Trentonian that contained allegations of sexual harassment of several female employees for nearly a decade.
Around the same time, county officials confirmed that Bocchini was being investigated by the New Jersey Attorney General’s Office for sexual harassment allegations. At this time, it is unclear whether the investigation is still ongoing. Bocchini has a separate attorney for both his criminal and civil matters.
As part of the civil harassment case, the victims have indicated that they have physical evidence, including emails that contain sexually harassing language. When Bocchini retired, the woman reported that she saved specific emails, but those messages were alleged “mysteriously” deleted. It is unknown who deleted the emails, but some of them have been recovered.
Some of those emails included crude jokes and comics. Staff emails included the “breast of the day” as subject lines.
Sexual Harassment Cases
The sexual harassment case involves Bocchini himself as well as Mercer County and the Mercer County Prosecutor’s Office. Part of the suit includes an allegation that Mercer County should have a more effective sexual anti-discrimination policy in the workplace. The victim is also accusing the county of failing to take remedial action when it was on notice of harassment.
This particular sexual harassment case likely involves both unwelcome sexual advances and a hostile work environment. Sexual conduct directed at an individual is fairly easy to recognize, but a hostile work environment may not be as straightforward.
In a hostile work environment situation, there may be verbal, physical, or both types of actions. Whether an environment is hostile will depend on how frequently the action was repeated, whether the action was patently offensive, and whether the harassment was directed at more than one person. Harassment can take many forms, however. It is also somewhat subjective. An experienced New Jersey employment discrimination attorney can help you determine whether you are working in a hostile environment and assert a sexual harassment claim.