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Jo Miceli v. Lakeland Automotive Corporation

October 19, 2011

JO MICELI, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,
v.
LAKELAND AUTOMOTIVE CORPORATION, DEFENDANT-RESPONDENT.



On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Morris County, Docket No. L-1869-09.

Per curiam.

NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION

Submitted October 3, 2011

Before Judges Sabatino and Fasciale.

Plaintiff Jo Miceli appeals from an order granting summary judgment to her employer, defendant Lakeland Automotive Corporation (Lakeland). She argued that Lakeland subjected her to a hostile work environment based on her gender. The trial court concluded that Miceli failed to establish a prima facie case under the Law Against Discrimination (LAD), N.J.S.A. 10:5-1 to -49. We affirm.

Lakeland employed Miceli as its only female car salesperson between August 2006 and June 2007. The thrust of her lawsuit is directed towards the conduct of two other Lakeland employees over the span of a couple of months. She contended that on three occasions a male co-worker abused, belittled, and harassed her, and that her male sales manager permitted the hostile work environment to continue and generally treated her abusively by speaking to her in an angry, belittling, and condescending manner.

On March 2, 2007, Miceli and her co-worker argued because Miceli assisted two customers in a row against company policy. The co-worker yelled at her that she was "going to get hers" and that her "day is coming." Miceli emailed both her sales manager and the chief operating officer, and notified them about the incident.*fn1 The manager immediately warned the co-worker that "[a]ny further or similar issues or threats (verbal as well as physical) will result in immediate termination."

On March 14, 2007, Miceli learned that on her day off, the co-worker serviced one of Miceli's existing customers. Miceli reported the incident and the sales manager responded by returning the customer to her.

On May 18, 2007, the co-worker removed car keys from Miceli's desk without her permission. She viewed the keys on his desk, questioned him about the incident, and asked him "why are you acting like an animal?" She testified during deposition that the co-worker replied, "Kiss my ass. . . . I'll act like an animal and show you how animals act, so you better be very afraid." Miceli reported the matter to her sales manager, and he again warned the co-worker that any further incidents or threats would result in termination. There were no further incidents between Miceli and the co-worker.

On June 30, 2007, Miceli voluntarily stopped reporting to work for Lakeland. Two weeks later she notified Lakeland that she could no longer sell cars due to injuries she sustained in a February 2007 accident. She never returned to work.

In June 2009, Miceli filed a hostile work environment complaint against Lakeland. After answering the complaint, Lakeland filed a motion for summary judgment. During oral argument, Miceli provided to the judge the best example of how the sales manager acted abusively towards her. The following exchange occurred:

The Court: And what would he say?

Miceli: He would be very abusive.

The Court: Like what, what would he say, you're a lousy sales person or what? Miceli: No, he never said anything like that, but if I had done something wrong, he didn't take me into his office and -- and speak to me about it. He would ...


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