Scheers v. Rite Aid
After three weeks of trial, ACK received a defense verdict in the case of Deborah A. Scheers v. Rite Aid Corporation et al in the Superior Court for Camden County, New Jersey. Bringing suit under New Jersey's Law Against Discrimination, Ms. Scheers, who was employed at Rite Aid's store in Atco, New Jersey, alleged that she had been sexually harassed by her store manager, subjected to retaliation and wrongfully terminated by Rite Aid. Rite Aid obtained judgment on the termination and retaliation claims in advance of trial. The verdict is the second obtained by Mr. Rothschild in a sexual harassment case this year.
In August 2001, Ms. Scheers started working as an assistant manager of Rite Aid’s store in Atco, New Jersey. Ms. Scheers alleged that her store manager started making harassing comments and brushing against her two months later. She testified that her complaints to her district manager went unheeded and that he merely responded that she should punch him in the nose. She claimed that the sexual harassment culminated in an alleged sexual assault on November 28, 2001 in which Ms. Scheers asserted that the manager grabbed her breast as she was walking down a short flight of stairs, causing her to fall and aggravate a back condition. It was undisputed that Ms. Scheers reported the November 28 incident to her district manager in January 2002. Although the store manager denied any harassment, Rite Aid terminated him. Rite Aid denied that any incidents prior to the alleged sexual assault had been reported. Ms. Scheers, who was recently awarded disability benefits by the Social Security Administration, claimed that the fall on the stairs contributed to her disability and sought recovery of over $600,000 in lost wages. Ms. Scheers also alleged significant psychiatric injuries.
During trial, Rite Aid presented evidence that called into question Ms. Scheers' allegations that she was harassed. Ms. Scheers own written statement, which she provided at the time of Rite Aid's internal investigation, only alleged harassment on November 28, 2001. Ms. Scheers’ neuro-surgeon testified that Ms. Scheers admitted to him that the November 28 incident involved a slip on the steps in which a co-worker tried to catch her to break her fall; she never told him that she had been sexually assaulted. Nor did Ms. Scheers tell co-workers or even family members who worked at Rite Aid that she had been harassed. Other evidence, including medical records, inconsistencies in Ms. Scheers' testimony and the lack of corroborating testimony also suggested that Ms. Scheers' claim was filed in retaliation for her October 2002 termination.
At the conclusion of the case, the Court granted judgment to Rite Aid on Plaintiff's claim for economic damages. After hearing testimony from fourteen witnesses, including seven experts, the jury concluded that Ms. Scheers was not harassed by her store manager.