New Jersey’s employment laws protect employees from workplace sexual harassment. People accused of sexual harassment may be subject to individual liability under both civil and criminal laws. Employers may also be found liable for sexual harassment because of their employees’ actions.
Sexual harassment does not need to be sexual in nature. It can take at least two forms: (1) hostile work environment, and (2) “quid pro quo” sexual harassment. Hostile work environment sexual harassment is conduct that has been directed towards someone because of that person’s sex. For example, harassment that is based on stereotypes about women or men can be construed to be sexual harassment. Of course, harassment that is sexual in nature is sexual harassment. Therefore, inappropriate sexual propositions, jokes or advances can be construed sexual harassment and result in a civil lawsuit. This type of conduct is prohibited.
“Quid pro quo” sexual harassment is also prohibited. Quid pro quo sexual harassment is the demand by an employer, manager, or supervisor that terms and conditions of employment, such as raises, promotions, or simply keeping the employee’s job, in return for sexual favors. For example, if a boss requires an employee to have sex or enter into a romantic relationship to keep her job, get a promotion or avoid discipline, then the employer could be liable for quid pro quo sexual harassment.
Employees complaining about workplace sexual harassment are protected from retaliation. In fact, it is a violation of New Jersey’s employment laws for employers to retaliate against employees for their complaints about behavior that that employees reasonably believe is sexual harassment.
Simply, employees should not have to endure the stress or indignity of inappropriate sexual conduct in the workplace. However, not every type of workplace conduct based on gender is unlawful. Instead, to have an actionable claim of sexual harassment the conduct complained of must be serious enough or frequent enough to make a reasonable person believe that her working conditions are hostile or abusive.
Victims of sexual harassment in the workplace should immediately report the conduct to a manager, supervisor, or their human resources department and allow the employer to take appropriate remedial action. Employers which fail to take appropriate remedial action may be subject to a lawsuit.
Victims of sexual harassment may obtain various forms of relief. For example, a victim of sexual harassment who is fired may recover past and future lost wages, damages for emotional distress and punitive damages, and have their employer pay their attorneys fees. Victims who are not terminated may recover money damages because they were subjected to a hostile work environment.
We regularly provide counseling to employees and help prosecute allegations of violations of New Jersey’s employment laws, and prosecute claims for wrongful termination or harassment.
McLaughlin & Nardi’s employment attorneys regularly represent employees in federal and state court, in mediation and in arbitration, and litigating employment disputes. To learn more about what we can do to help, please e-mail us or call (973) 890-0004.