Sexual Harassment & Hostile Work Environments
Eliminating Harassment From New Jersey Worksites
Acts of sexual harassment and/or other forms of hostile behavior that are committed in the workplace are illegal in the State of New Jersey. They are viewed by the law as an affront to as well as an assault upon the dignity of the hard working employee and are not to be tolerated. They can be emotionally scarring and physically debilitating to the employees who become the targets of these offensive acts, and the law is available to these victims to serve as a refuge from this outrageous behavior that is exhibited by either their co-worker or supervisor. My name is Richard A. Dunne, Esq. and I have devoted more than 15 years of my career as an experienced litigator striving to eliminate all forms of harassment from the workplace.
Understanding The Impact of the Law on Workplace Harassment
Sexual harassment and the creation of a hostile work environment are forms of discrimination that have been outlawed by both the New Jersey State Legislature, through its passage of the Law Against Discrimination, and the United States Congress, by its enactment of the Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Sexual harassment exists when an employee’s job or opportunity for advancement becomes dependent upon that employee either tolerating unwelcome sexual advances or acquiescing in requests for sexual favors from either their supervisors or co-workers. A hostile work environment exists when the employee is forced to tolerate constant yelling, screaming, name-calling, and even physical abuse committed either by their supervisors or co-workers.
Quid Pro Quo
The most overt type of sexual harassment arises when a person’s employment or career advancement becomes dependent upon the employee submitting to his or her supervisor’s sexual requests and/or overtures. This “quid pro quo” (i.e. this for that) exchange can be explicitly stated or merely implied by overall circumstances.
The Critical Question: Is the Behavior Welcome or Unwelcome?
Sexual harassment does not exist when the behavior is welcome by the employee. For a cause of action to arise the conduct must be obviously unwelcome. Mere flirtations and romances that blossom from relationships that first began in the office won’t ever lead to a successful cause of action for sexual harassment, even those that happen between a worker and his or her supervisor, because they will almost always be perceived as conduct that was fully consensual between the two workers. This is why it is important for you to make your objections clear to any sexual advances that are directed to you by either your co-workers or supervisors if you are made to feel uncomfortable by them. If you don’t, there will always be that chance the relationship will be perceived as consensual.
Same-Sex Sexual Harassment
Sexual harassment does not have to occur between members of the opposite sex to be unlawful. Same-sex harassment in the workplace is prevalent, and the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination is equal in its effect, prohibiting all forms of sexual harassment regardless of whether it arises between members of the same or opposite sex.
Remedies Designed to Compensate and Restore the Dignity of Victims
Employees who successfully prove that they have been the victims of sexual harassment or a hostile work environment will collect damages, which can include:
- Back pay — wages, salary, and fringe benefits that you would have received had you not been denied employment, a promotion or terminated from the date of the employer’s unlawful act to the date of trial;
- Compensatory damages — for emotional distress, mental anguish and pain and suffering;
- Attorney’s Fees — for the prevailing party if that party actually receives a verdict following an actual trial;
- Punitive damages — limited to cases in which the employer’s behavior was intentional or committed with malice or with reckless disregard for the employee;
- Front pay — compensation for anticipated future lost income in cases where reinstatement is not practical or locating a new job is extremely difficult.
Injunctive relief, including the reinstatement of an employee who was terminated or the ordering of an employer to modify its practices and policies so the harassment doesn’t occur again, can also be requested.
If you believe you have been the victim of a hostile work environment or sexual harassment my office is conveniently located in Route 22 in Mountainside, New Jersey so don’t hesitate to contact me online or by telephone by dialing (908) 228-8200 to schedule an initial consultation.