When one endures a hostile work environment, it may occur for many different reasons. It may be due to your race/color, your gender, your religion, your disability, your ethnicity/nationality, your gender identity, your sexual orientation, or some other basis. Other times, you may be a member of more than one of those protected groups and the harassment you receive may be based upon the combination (or “intersection”) of those groups. Either way, it’s illegal and an experienced New Jersey hostile work environment lawyer can help you in pursuing your legal options.
As an example of this, there’s B.R., who worked as a detective for the Gloucester County Prosecutor’s Office in South Jersey. B.R. was a woman and also homosexual. As a lesbian, she allegedly endured a hostile work environment that included an array of humiliating actions and comments perpetrated by the county prosecutor and others in the office.
After B.R.’s sexual orientation became known at work, the harassment began. First, there were the slurs, with a fellow detective allegedly calling her the misogynistic “C-word” epithet. Then there was the homophobic rhetoric, with the same detective allegedly commenting that he’d prefer that his child “die from an overdose than be gay,” as well as comparing B.R. to a pedophile by suggesting that, if same-sex marriage was legal, child marriage should be a legal option for pedophiles.
From Homophobia in the Workplace to Offensive Lesbian Stereotyping
Then there were the stereotypes and more graphic acts of harassment. On one occasion, the male detective allegedly placed his exposed genitals on B.R.’s desk and told her that she was a lesbian because she “hadn’t had the right” man yet.
In some workplaces, the harassment is more than just the initial perpetrator’s acts. It is worsened when you summon the courage to speak out and the ones to whom you entrust your complaint fail to respond appropriately. In B.R.’s case, she complained to two sergeants, who allegedly failed to take her seriously, with the male sergeant laughing about the harassment.
When a new prosecutor took over in 2017, the detective hoped things would improve but they actually got worse. At an office golf outing, the prosecutor allegedly made comments perpetuating anti-lesbian stereotypes, like asking the detective who was “the man in the relationship” and who was “the [B-word] in the relationship”, commenting that the detective and her wife were “the best-looking lesbians (he) has ever seen,” and probing for details about the specifics of the detective’s sex life with her wife.
On top of all that, the prosecutor’s wife allegedly grabbed B.R.’s wife, “turned her around and humped her in front of a number of people.” The prosecutor’s wife also allegedly asked where she could buy a particular sexual aid (that a lesbian couple might own) so that she could use it on her husband.
Back in December, the prosecutor’s office and the detective settled the lawsuit, with the detective receiving a payment of $165,000. When the settlement was published this month, B.R. remained working as a detective with the prosecutor’s office.
B.R.’s case teaches several different things. One of the key ones is that every target of workplace harassment and/or discrimination has different needs. Some may feel that it is important to hold the harassers accountable in a very public way such as through a full trial on the merits of the case (and subsequent judgment.)
Others might prioritize “closure” and prefer an outcome that is as speedy as possible. Some might want to avoid having to relive their harassment on a witness stand in a full courtroom. For those people, a settlement might be a viable option.
Some might want “closure” and, to that end, might seek to obtain compensation and get far away from their previous place of employment.
Others, though, might prefer to remain in their existing job. For those workers, an integral part of any settlement or judgment might include reinstatement to their old job (if they were fired or constructively discharged as part of their discrimination and/or harassment) and reinstatement to their previous seniority level and salary if they suffered improper adverse employment actions in those respects.
The point is that there is no “right way” to take on your hostile work environment case. There is only the law, the facts, and the objectives you desire to accomplish from pursuing your case. To get you to those goals, count on the thoughtful and diligent New Jersey hostile work environment attorneys at Phillips & Associates. To put the power of our team on your side, contact us online or at (609) 436-9087 today to set up a free and confidential consultation.