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.
On the flip side, even less egregious conduct can be enough if continues to occur over and over across an extended period of time. For example, inappropriate comments or jokes about women’s bodies might make for a valid claim if that improper conduct continued over a protracted period of time.
You should also keep in mind that your harasser does not have to be someone of the opposite gender for his or her conduct to amount to sexual harassment. A man can sexually harass another male employee (and a female can harass a female). This can be true, and the victim can have a valid sexual harassment case, regardless of the harasser and victim’s sexual orientations. In other words, even if two men are both heterosexual, that does not mean that one of those two cannot legally sexually harass the other one.
Although many employers are working to eliminate unprofessional and potentially harassing conduct from their workplaces, some places of employment continue to allow inappropriate behavior and comments under the guise of a “lighthearted” workplace culture that fosters team-building through amiable teasing and humor. If the teasing and the jokes are sexual in nature, and they continue over an extended period of time, you may have a case. Even if you sometimes participated in the joking and teasing, that does not automatically take away your legal ability to claim harassment. In 2008, the New Jersey Supreme Court upheld a jury verdict in favor of a harassed employee. The pervasiveness of the comments and stereotyping was extensive enough to support a jury verdict in favor of the harassed employee, even if he sometimes joined in the repartee. While this worker’s case was based upon religious harassment, the ruling points out the extent of the rights of workers when it comes to various forms of harassment, including sexual harassment.
If you have suffered from sexual harassment at work that was so constant or so extreme that it negatively altered your employment situation, you may be entitled to sue and recover compensation. Talk to the knowledgeable New Jersey hostile work environment attorneys at Phillips & Associates. Our attorneys have been providing reliable and effective representation to harassed New Jersey workers for many years. Reach us online or at (609) 436-9087 today to set up a free and confidential consultation and to find out how we can help you.
More blog posts:
A Federal Judge Denies a New Jersey Employer’s Request for Summary Judgment in Worker’s Quid Pro Quo Sexual Harassment Case, New Jersey Employment Lawyer Blog, March 27, 2018
Job-Related Holiday Parties, Alcohol, and Sexual Harassment in New Jersey, New Jersey Employment Lawyer Blog, Dec. 4, 2017