A Toms River towing company and its owner were ordered to pay a fine of approximately $110,000 after "persistent sexual harassment" led to the resignation of one of its female employees, the state's attorney general announced Monday.
A final decision issued by the Division on Civil Rights awarded $57,920 to the victim for emotional distress and lost wages, Attorney General Christopher Porrino said. The woman was employed as a dispatcher for Statewide Roadside Assistance for one year.
In addition, the company and owner Neal Prasad must pay the state $52,350 in fines, Porrino said.
The woman said she was the victim of what an administrative law judge called "severe and pervasive" verbal and sexual harassment that "no reasonable person" could tolerate.
Prasad was accused of inappropriately rubbing his body against the victim, inappropriately touching her and making remarks to her that were "sexual and demeaning," officials said.
Prasad had threatened to spank her if her demeanor was not pleasant, officials said. In another case, the victim testified, he followed her into the company's garage and told her to "give the big guy a kiss." When she refused, she said, he kissed her on the cheek.
The woman, a single mother of three, testified that she was unable to seek counseling for her emotional distress, and that she had trouble finding employment that offered equal pay after her resignation in 2014. She later filed a complaint with the Division on Civil Rights.
"The conduct in this case goes straight to the core of the sexual harassment discussion taking place in every corner of our nation right now," Porrino said in a statement. "Upon reporting for work each day, this employee was put in a very difficult and stressful circumstance. She was economically dependent on her job for the sake of her children, and regularly harassed on that job - in the form of overtly sexual comments, inappropriately suggestive invitations and unwanted physical touching - by someone who held sway over both her hourly wage and her continued employment."