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Victims of workplace sexual harassment can sue employers for emotional stress without having to demonstrate through experts they suffered severe psychological harm, the New Jersey Supreme Court has ruled. Justices split, 4-2, in the case of a Toms River, N.J., woman. Carol Tarr, 50, alleged she was subjected to a hostile work environment created by sexual innuendoes, demeaning language and crude gestures by others at Mack Auto Mall, the car dealership where she worked as a finance manager. “We are convinced that the Legislature intended victims of discrimination to obtain redress for mental anguish, embarrassment and the like, without the limitation to severe emotional or physical ailments,” the court said Monday in its majority decision by Justice John E. Wallace. But in a dissenting opinion, Justice Jaynee LaVecchia said Tarr did not sufficiently support her claim of emotional distress. “Although a co-worker testified about how she believed the discrimination had affected plaintiff, the plaintiff herself introduced no other evidence of her emotional distress, except her own testimony,” LaVecchia wrote. The suit against the dealership, owner Bob Ciasulli and several employees had been dismissed by Superior Court Judge Marlene Lynch Ford, ruling that a worker who sued for sexual harassment had to show physical symptoms of illness or a diagnosed mental condition in order to win monetary compensation for emotional distress. An appellate court panel reversed that ruling, and on Monday the state Supreme Court said employers should be held liable for “willful conduct” that might prompt “emotional distress and mental anguish damages arising out of embarrassment, humiliation, and other intangible injuries.” Justices sent the case back to a jury for a new hearing on damages. Copyright 2004 Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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