In a rare victory for the defense in an action for sexual harassment, the New Jersey Supreme Court affirmed the dismissal of a case brought by two female students against the Princton Theological Seminary. The students alleged that they were harassed by an older alumnus of and contributor to the Seminary who resided in close proximity to the campus. In ruling against the students, the Supreme Court emphasized that the pair failed to demonstrate that they were victims of “severe and pervasive” harassing conduct. Further, in evaluating whether this burden was met, it stressed that the offending conduct should be measured against “a reasonable person” standard, not the subjective effect of the actions on a given plaintiff.
But the most encouraging part of the opinon was the court’s reliance on good, old fashioned common sense. With no legal citation given or required, the court noted: “it is important in that regard that neither of these women used her own authority to tell Miller to ‘go away.’ They cannot rely on the prospect of a money damages award from the Seminary to replace their own obligation to simply tell Miller that they had no interest in him romantically or even as a casual acquaintance.”