New Jersey Hostile Work Environment Sexual Harassment
Dedicated New Jersey Lawyers Helping Mistreated Employees
Unfortunately, many people have unpleasant or abusive bosses or coworkers. Some throw books or pound the table. Others say horrible things behind an employee's back and undermine their career path. Still others abuse their power through sexual conduct or demeaning conduct based on sex. To be actionable, hostile work environment sexual harassment must be so severe or so pervasive that it alters the terms and conditions of employment. At Phillips & Associates, our New Jersey sexual harassment attorneys may be able to help you recover damages for hostile work environment sexual harassment at your job.
Understanding When Hostile Work Environment Sexual Harassment Happens
A hostile work environment can be created by innuendoes, jokes, visual harassment, touching, groping, pranks, derogatory remarks, and sexual gifts. Supervisors, managers, customers, clients, or coworkers can perpetrate it. Men and women can perpetrate it against people of either sex, as long as the harassment is based on the sex of the victim. It can include same-sex sexual harassment as well.
A hostile work environment can develop in many different ways. The harassment must be either so severe or so pervasive that it alters the terms and conditions of employment, or it must result in an adverse employment action.
A hostile work environment may be created, for example, if your manager keeps making lewd comments about your appearance, touching you inappropriately, and sending you sexually charged memes and videos. It could also be created by multiple male coworkers making fun of the sexual prowess of another male employee, threatening to rape him, and using slurs against him. It could also be created if a coworker raped you at the holiday party.
Liability for Hostile Work Environment Sexual Harassment
Both Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (NJLAD) prohibit hostile work environment sexual harassment. However, there are important differences between these laws. Title VII generally applies to workplaces with a minimum of 15 employees. There are caps on compensatory and punitive damages under Title VII, and these caps are based on the size of the employer. When your employer has 15-100 employees, the damages are limited to $50,000. When your employer has 101-200 employees, the cap is $100,000. When your employer has 201-500 employees, the cap is $200,000. When your employer has more than 500 employees, the cap is $300,000.
The NJLAD applies to smaller employers, including those with just one employee. If you are subjected to what you believe is hostile work environment sexual harassment by a coworker, you should let the harasser know that the conduct is unwelcome. You should also use whichever grievance procedure is specified in your employment handbook. This gives notice to your employer and provides an opportunity for your employer to take corrective measures.
However, liability is fairly expansive under the state law, and you should consult with an experienced attorney about your situation. In one New Jersey case, for example, a victim did not report that a coworker was sending her sexually explicit images and talking to her over the phone about masturbation. She only reported the harasser after someone from a different department advised her to do so. HR suspended the harasser and fired him later. The victim sued the employer, and the appellate court determined that the employer could be found to have had constructive knowledge of the hostile work environment because it did not set up an effective sexual harassment policy giving employees a reasonable way to register internal complaints.
If you successfully prove that you were subjected to a hostile work environment, you can recover damages that include back pay, interest on lost wages, compensatory damages for pain and suffering and emotional distress, injunctive relief, and in some cases, punitive damages.
Consult Our New Jersey Attorneys About a Sexual Harassment Claim
It is humiliating and degrading to be subjected to sexual remarks and actions on the job. You should be able to work in a place free from sexual harassment. The New Jersey attorneys at Phillips & Associates can provide aggressive, experienced representation. Contact us at (866) 229-9441 or via our online form for a free consultation. We help clients in Jersey City, Paterson, Hackensack, and Newark, as well as other areas of Passaic, Bergen, Morris, Essex, Hudson, Union, Somerset, Monmouth, Middlesex, Mercer, Burlington, and Camden Counties.
New Jersey Hostile Work Environment
New Jersey Employment Discrimination Lawyers Fighting Workplace Harassment
One type of workplace harassment is known as hostile work environment. Often it arises in the context of sexual harassment, which is prohibited under both Title VII of the Civil Rights Act and the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination. However, it can also arise in the context of religious, racial, pregnancy, color, gender identity, disability, or other protected categories. The workplace harassment must be either frequent or quite severe to be actionable. At Phillips & Associates, our New Jersey hostile work environment lawyers can review your case and evaluate whether you have a basis to bring a hostile work environment lawsuit.
What Is a Hostile Work Environment?
Your employer should provide you with a work environment that is free from harassment, which is a form of discrimination. Harassment is actionable if it creates a hostile work environment. This is established if you can prove that actions and words used against you in the workplace would cause a reasonable person who falls within the same protected category, such as sex or race, to feel intimidated or offended such that the terms of employment have been altered.
Offensive conduct that is directed towards you because of your sex, race, pregnancy, disability, religion, color, nationality, sexual orientation, gender identity or membership in other protected categories may create a hostile work environment. Actions or gestures that might be considered to contribute to a hostile work environment include:
- inappropriate remarks,
- sexual or racial epithets,
- explicit emails,
- pornographic images,
- yelling and screaming,
- and swearing.
Harassment Must Be Severe or Pervasive
The hostile work environment is only created if the harassment is either severe or pervasive. Severity refers to how offensive the words or actions are, while pervasiveness refers to how often the harassment occurs. In order for one act of harassment to qualify as hostile work environment harassment, it must be extreme. Alternatively, a series of minor incidents can be so pervasive that they generate a hostile work environment. For example, if you are repeatedly called slurs and subject to offensive jokes by coworkers, and your manager witnesses this and does nothing, this is likely a hostile work environment. A hostile work environment attorney at our New Jersey office can help you bring a claim in this situation.
Although an employer is strictly liable for harassment by a supervisor or manager, it can also be held liable for harassment by a coworker if it knows about the harassment and doesn't take steps to protect the victim.
Damages for a Hostile Work Environment
If you successfully establish a hostile work environment claim, you may be able to recover damages. These are capped if your claim arises out of federal laws enforced by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). If you bring your claim based on the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination, the remedies may include back pay, compensatory damages, emotional distress damages, injunctive relief to make the work environment better, punitive damages and interest on lost wages.
Consult a Hostile Work Environment Lawyer in New Jersey to Protect Your Rights
If you believe in reasonable good faith that you have been subject to a hostile work environment, you are entitled to complain about the harassment. Although it can be stressful to bring a discrimination claim against your employer, most anti-discrimination laws that prohibit harassment include a provision against retaliation so that your employer may owe additional damages if it retaliates against you. The New Jersey hostile work environment attorneys of Phillips & Associates may be able to help you recover damages. Contact us at (866) 229-9441 or through our online system. We help clients in Passaic, Bergen, Morris, Essex, Union, Hudson, Somerset, Middlesex, Monmouth, Mercer, Burlington, and Camden Counties.
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