SW Legal studies in Business

Sex Discrimination Applies to Business Relationships

New Jersey appeals court held that a woman who suffered the loss of a large sale contract with a customer, because she failed to submit to sexual demands, could pursue a claim of sex discrimination against the customer for tying the business relationship to sexual favors.

Topic Employment Discrimination
Key Words

Sexual Harassment; Contract Termination

C A S E   S U M M A R Y

Eileen Totorello owned J.T.'s Tire Service, a company that sold industrial tires. One customer was United Rental. J.T.'s began selling tires to its Piscataway, New Jersey branch in 1998. Totorello alleged that, beginning in 2005, the manager of that United branch, Hinkes, began to pressure her for sexual favors. He made it clear to her that he would quit buying tires from J.T.'s if she did not submit to his advances, which included kissing and groping her. His advances became more and more insistent. In 2007, when she flatly refused, he quit buying tires from J.T.'s. Sales had previously averaged $29,000 per month. Tororello sued United and Hinkes for violating the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination. The trial court dismissed the complaint, holding that the law did not apply to such situations. Totorello appealed.


Reversed and remanded. When harassment consists of sexual overtures and unwelcome touching or groping, it is presumed that the conduct was committed because of the victim's sex. Hence, Totorello has established, under the Law Against Discrimination, that harassment has occurred because of her sex. Demanding sexual favors as a condition of continuing business does state a claim for sex discrimination. Both Title VII and the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination prohibit sexual harassment in the employment context, which extends to such situations.


J.T.'s Tire Service, Inc. v. United Rentals North America, 985A.2d 211 (App. Div., N.J., 2010)

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