Coffee Shop Owner Accused of Sexual Harassment

A Camden coffee shop owner was sued after six female employees alleged that he sexually harassed them in the workplace. The coffee shop, located in downtown Camden, is modestly called “City Coffee” but, interestingly, provides other services. City Coffee also brews up DNA testing and tax preparations, which the owner runs out of his office in the back of the store.
Former employees of City Coffee alleged that the owner lured or followed them into areas of the store that could not be seen in the store surveillance camera in order to make advances. The complaint further alleged that the owner created such an intolerable work environment that many female employees quit.

A settlement reached in the amount of $75,000 the night before trial is now being contested by the owner, who claims he never agreed to it and did not sign it. Recently, a Superior Court Judge ruled that the settlement is binding and enforceable, and the owner be required to comply. In addition to the $75,000, $15,000 of which will be distributed to the employees involved, the settlement also required that the coffee shop owner provide employee training on workplace discrimination and put in place store policies against workplace discrimination. The State Attorney General’s Office believes that the owner will be appealing the decision.

There are two important things to note from this story. The first is that although the owner argues that he never signed anything, agreements do not always have to be signed in order to be enforceable in New Jersey. Second, employers in New Jersey, no matter the size, must have anti-discrimination and anti-harassment policies and should provide training on these issues, for their own protection and for the protection of their employees.