Articles Posted in Sexual Harassment

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All workers in New Jersey have the right, and should expect, to be able to pursue their jobs and earn a living without enduring sexual harassment or discrimination on the job. Unfortunately, that isn’t always reality. When workplace discrimination or harassment does occur, you may have various legal options available to you. Depending on the specific facts of your situation, you may be entitled to sue in state court, in federal court or, sometimes, sue in both courts. Whether your circumstances permit you to pursue one or more legal actions to obtain the compensation you deserve, a skilled New Jersey discrimination attorney can help you assess all of the legal techniques available to you and give you the advice you need.

The case of a New Jersey municipal employee, S.P., that was reported by nj.com, was one which involved both state and federal legal action. S.P. allegedly had to endure some highly inappropriate behavior related to her work. S.P. purportedly was on the receiving end of quid-pro-quo sexual harassment and endured a hostile work environment inflicted by her employer’s director of municipal services and a health official. In addition, according to an earlier nj.com report, she was allegedly on the receiving end of inappropriate “sexting” messages from her mayor. According to the employee, the mayor agreed to settle the federal lawsuit if S.P. agreed to “commit to involving herself romantically” with the mayor.

Eventually, S.P. was terminated, which she alleged was the result of sex discrimination and retaliation.

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A workplace discrimination and harassment lawsuit, like any type of civil case, offers the successful plaintiff the opportunity to recover certain types of damages. These damages may include compensatory damages that compensate the injured worker for the harm suffered.. (This may include lost back wages, lost future earnings and emotional distress.) Your case may present facts that allow for the pursuit of punitive damages. Even if your employer forced you to sign an arbitration agreement as part of your employment, you generally cannot be forced to give away your right to seek punitive damages. So, whether you’re in court or in an arbitration hearing, you have an array of damages you can seek. A knowledgeable New Jersey discrimination attorney can help you make certain that you are seeking all of the damages to which you are entitled, whether in arbitration or litigation.

One case that highlights a harassed worker’s right to seek punitive damages was the recent case of M.R. (Appellate Division Case No. A-5388-16T3). M.R.’s allegations were, unfortunately, not uncommon. She was an employee in the human resources department of a North Bergen-based company. In September 2015, G.O. became the new supervisor of the human resources department. Allegedly, soon thereafter, the supervisor began making sexual advances and she turned him down. According to the employee, after she objected to the harassment, the supervisor retaliated against her, culminating in the supervisor’s firing her in December 2015.

M.R. sued her employer and her supervisor, alleging that she was the victim of sexual harassment and a sexually hostile work environment, in addition to being the victim of retaliation.

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The successes of other employees in sexual harassment litigation can serve many positive purposes. For one thing, they can serve as encouragement that hopefully will embolden others to come forward and stop suffering from harassment in silence. For another thing, the rulings that the courts make can provide valuable knowledge for those who come afterward. As an example, one recent case from Newark reminds New Jersey workers that you do not need proof that you suffered some extreme or debilitating emotional injury in order to succeed in establishing that you suffered from severe or pervasive harassment. The focal point is the harasser’s actions, rather than how they affected you. For the knowledge you need for your case, retain the services of a skilled New Jersey sexual harassment attorney to represent you.The case involved M.V., a customer service representative. M.V.’s case of sexual harassment is, unfortunately, an all-too-common set of facts. M.V. started her job in 2008 at the Newark office of a national producer of corrugated boxes. Not long after M.V. started work, her supervisor began sexually harassing her.

The harassment M.V. received was similar to the sorts of things too many employees have to endure. First came the supervisor’s comments about his sexual relationship with his girlfriend, with whom he’d recently split. Then came the supervisor’s comments about how he loved Latina women (like M.V.), how the ex-girlfriend thought he had “nice thighs,” how the girlfriend wanted him to have a threesome, and so forth. He also asked M.V. out to eat and placed his hand over her hand in an unwanted way. In addition, the supervisor stared at M.V.’s body inappropriately and often demanded that M.V. not speak to other men at the workplace.

In 2011, the employer fired M.V. Eleven months later, M.V. filed a sexual harassment lawsuit under the Law Against Discrimination. At the end of the trial, the jury ruled in favor of the employee, awarding her $300,000 for economic loss and $225,000 for emotional distress. The employee also received an award of $402,000 in attorneys’ fees and $20,000 in costs.

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In an important new decision from the federal courts, the Third Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that a secretary could pursue her sexual harassment case even though she did not report the harassment she allegedly endured. The new appeals court opinion acknowledges the complicated dynamics that can exist for some workers and the very real and very damaging risks they can face by choosing to stand up and report their harassers to their employers. Whether or not you reported your harassment right away, you may have legal options. Be sure to contact an experienced New Jersey discrimination attorney about your situation.

The secretary, S.M., started working for a Pennsylvania county in 2009. Her supervisor started engaging in unwelcome physical contact soon thereafter. The two frequently worked in a setting where they were the only ones present. The supervisor also allegedly sent the secretary sexually explicit emails, to which she did not respond.

The county was aware of some of the supervisor’s inappropriate behaviors. Twice, the supervisor’s supervisor became aware of the man’s inappropriate conduct toward other female employees and issued reprimands to him. Beyond the verbal reprimands, no further action was taken against the man.

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The recent news from a small Union County borough was genuinely shocking. Several employees of the borough’s police brought a Law Against Discrimination action against the borough, asserting that several fellow employees, including the chief, had engaged in numerous actions that created a hostile work environment. The array of allegations ranged from absurd to dangerous to repugnant. If proven, the allegations would almost certainly amount to a hostile work environment. The allegations are a reminder that a hostile work environment can happen in a variety of settings, and, if it has happened to you, you should reach out to a skilled New Jersey sexual harassment attorney about your situation.

The complaint, filed on May 11 and reported by nj.com a week later, put forward some serious allegations. According to the plaintiffs, the misdeeds included the extensive use of a blue sex toy in various jokes (and associated homophobic comments), the department’s top detective’s penchant for removing all of his clothes and trying to surprise co-workers in the locker room while he was naked, and a grotesque practice involving one officer’s genitals, the food or drink of unsuspecting co-workers, and photographic images of the combination. Furthermore, there was an allegation of an employee asking to sniff a female employee’s chair.

Then there were homophobic, sexist, and racist jokes, according to the complaint. In addition, the plaintiffs had photographic proof of the detective’s use of the sex toy and video of one male employee being harassed with the same toy.

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Outside New Jersey, entertainment giant ESPN made headlines recently when one of its former employees filed a sexual harassment lawsuit against her former employer. The woman asserted, as the basis for her sexual harassment claim, that one of the network’s well-known on-air male personalities sent her sexually harassing texts, including an unsolicited one in which the man was shirtless, according to the Chicago Tribune. Inside the state, recent New Jersey sexual harassment actions have included allegations of texts requesting oral sex and attaching pictures of the sender’s uncovered genitals. With all of this sexting in the news, it is important as an employee to know:  when does sexting become workplace sexual harassment? The answer often depends on the exact facts of your case. If you think you have been sexually harassed at work through texts, emails, or other electronic correspondence, you should reach out to an experienced New Jersey employment attorney promptly.

The most recent news was the sizable settlement in a state government worker’s sexual harassment case against a supervisory employee, according to an nj.com report. Latrece was an employee for the Division of Child Protection and Permanency. She was presumably focused on the division’s mission of ensuring “the safety, permanency, and well-being of children.” The manager of the Paterson office, however, was apparently focused on something else, according to Latrece’s lawsuit. In addition to various other sexually harassing actions (that included lifting her clothes, grabbing her breasts, and exposing his genitals), the manager texted lewd messages to Latrece, according to the woman’s complaint. The manager also allegedly sent the employee images of his naked genitals via text message.

The state settled the case, agreeing to pay Latrece $350,000.

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One of the recurring challenges that many people in the workplace face these days is the employer’s requirement that they sign documents waiving certain rights in exchange for employment or continued employment. These agreements can include provisions like clauses that mandate arbitration of all work-related disputes between employer and employee. That can possibly mean that, even if you have very strong proof of illegal harassment or discrimination, you may be blocked from getting that case in front of a jury. As is true of any legal document, especially those that involve forfeiting rights, know before you sign and consult a knowledgeable New Jersey harassment lawyer about the impact those documents could have on you.

One worker whose signature did hurt her harassment case was Kuashema, a salesperson for a furniture store in Hudson County. According to the saleswoman, hers was a hostile work environment. She alleged in a lawsuit that she was subjected to music that used the N-word along with various misogynistic slurs. She also asserted that the N-word and a certain anti-gay slur were frequently used at her work. According to Kuashema, she complained about the work environment conditions, but, not only did the hostile work environment conditions continue, but also the employer fired her in retaliation for making a complaint.

The saleswoman was not able to go forward to trial in her lawsuit, however. Her inability to do so was not a result of any factual weakness in her case. Kuashema’s case was thrown out because, while she still worked for the furniture company, she signed something the employer called the “Associate’s Agreement & Consent.” This document included within it a provision that said that employees agreed to resolve all employment disputes by utilizing the Employee Arbitration Program. In other words, the agreement had a mandatory arbitration clause in it, and Kuashema was, as a result, locked into arbitrating instead of litigating her claim.

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Sexual harassment is an especially insidious form of workplace misconduct because of the particular extent to which it debases and dehumanizes the victim. This is especially true in one of the two major varieties of sexual harassment, called “quid pro quo” harassment. This type of harassment involves an employer basing employment decisions (hiring, firing, promotion, demotion, number of hours assigned, etc.) on the employee’s willingness or unwillingness to submit to unwanted sexual advances. All workers have a right to perform their jobs without being subjected to these types of unethical behaviors, and to have their work judged on their merit, rather than on the provision (or refusal) of sexual favors. If you have suffered from quid pro quo sexual harassment, or hostile work environment harassment, you should contact an experienced New Jersey sexual harassment attorney promptly about your situation.

“Quid pro quo” is a Latin phrase that generally translates to “something for something.” As the courts have clearly indicated, this can exist in more than one possible way. One way is when submitting to such demands is “made either explicitly or implicitly a term or condition of an individual’s employment.” (In other words, providing sex becomes part of the arrangement for employment.) The other is when “submission to or rejection of [sex] is used as the basis for employment decisions.” (In other words, the employer takes an employment action regarding an employee because that employee did or did not provide sex.)

All of these types of quid pro quo sexual harassment are illegal under both federal and state laws. Title VII of the federal Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits workplace discrimination on several bases, including sex. The law has made it very clear that sexual harassment is a type of discrimination based upon sex. Additionally, the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination bars both quid pro quo sexual harassment and hostile work environment harassment.

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In the age of the #metoo movement, sexual harassment is in the news now more than ever. Various employers are taking a renewed look at how to eliminate harassment and abuse in their workplaces. With regard to the law in New Jersey, there are actually multiple different ways that you can be a victim of sexual harassment at work. One way involves someone at work basing your employment treatment (such as promotions/demotions, raises, or continued employment) on whether or not you provide sexual favors to that person.

Another form of harassment occurs when behaviors toward you, which might possibly include groping, touching, comments not appropriate for work, explicit or vulgar jokes, insults, epithets, or pornography, become so extreme or extensive that they would make any reasonable person feel intimidated or threatened. This latter form of harassment is called hostile work environment, and it can be the basis of a valid sexual harassment lawsuit under both the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination and federal law. If you have suffered sexual harassment so hostile that it altered the conditions of your job, you should reach out right away to a New Jersey hostile work environment attorney.

In order to have a winnable claim of hostile work environment sexual harassment, you have to demonstrate to the court that the harassment you endured was either “severe or pervasive.” It is possible to have a valid hostile work environment claim based upon only a single incident if that single event was sufficiently extreme and offensive. A federal court last year decided that two African-American men had a valid harassment case based upon a supervisor’s single use of the “n-word.” While that wasn’t an incident of sexual harassment, the workers’ success in court illustrates how a plaintiff can succeed with only evidence of isolated acts if those acts (or single act) were adequately egregious.

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If you’re familiar with Latin words used in the law, you’ve probably heard the phrase “quid pro quo.” Quid pro quo is a Latin phrase that basically means “something for something.” Quid pro quo sexual harassment is a situation in which someone offers improper employment benefits in exchange for sex, or, more commonly, an employee suffers harm on the job as a result of refusing sexual advances. This can be one of the most intimidating forms of sexual harassment, since it places you in fear of losing your income. If you’ve suffered from quid pro quo harassment at work, you should reach out right away to a knowledgeable New Jersey sexual harassment attorney.

One employee whose case was an example of this type of harassment was Rochelle, an employee of a major auto parts store. The harassment of Rochelle began only two months after she started a sales representative position at the chain’s Newark location. Nicola began telling others that Rochelle was a prostitute. Rochelle complained, but Nicola retaliated by increasing Rochelle’s workload. The store manager also allegedly suspended Rochelle for complaining about the harassment.

Eventually, Rochelle complained to human resources, and they transferred her to the Irvington store. There, the parts sales manager made unwanted sexual advances toward, and contact with, Rochelle. After Rochelle rejected the man’s sexual advances, he retaliated against her at work. When the corporate headquarters learned of the harassment at Irvington, they transferred Rochelle to the East Orange store. The employer also, however, transferred Rochelle’s harasser from Irvington to East Orange. At East Orange, the man retaliated against Rochelle for not giving him sex by cutting her hours from 40 per week to 32. Rochelle also alleged in her lawsuit that she was denied a promotion because she complained to human resources about the harassment.

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