New Jersey Physical Sexual Harassment
New Jersey is one of the most diverse states in the country. It is also one of the most densely populated states. However, this diversity is not necessarily respected in the workplace. Sexual harassment can include a wide range of unwelcome actions that are based on the victim's sex. It may include sexual innuendoes, derogatory comments, repeated demands for dates, offensive jokes, and physical actions. Physical actions that may constitute sexual harassment include gestures and touching on one end of the spectrum and rape on the other. If you were subjected to physical sexual harassment at your job, the New Jersey sexual harassment lawyers at Phillips & Associates may be able to help you recover damages.Recognizing Physical Sexual Harassment
Generally, harassment is illegal in New Jersey workplaces if it is so pervasive or so severe that it creates a hostile or intimidating work environment, or it results in an adverse employment action, such as demotion, losing benefits, being docked pay, or being terminated. Harassers can be customers, clients, coworkers, supervisors, or managers. You may be able to hold a harasser liable for physical sexual harassment under either Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 or the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (NJLAD). The harasser's relationship to you and how your employer addresses the situation can affect whether your employer is liable for physical sexual harassment.
There are some important legal differences between Title VII and the NJLAD. Title VII covers employers that have a minimum of 15 employees. It caps damages. The NJLAD prohibits sexual harassment regardless of the employer's size. In addition to prohibiting physical sexual harassment based solely on sex, it also prohibits physical sexual harassment based on gender identity and sexual orientation.Pursuing a Remedy for Physical Sexual Harassment
To recover damages under the NJLAD, your attorney will need to show that the physical harassment would not have happened if not for your sex, and the harassment was severe or pervasive, such that a reasonable person would believe that the terms and conditions of employment had been changed and the environment was abusive, intimidating, or hostile. For example, if you were raped by your supervisor at the office holiday party, it would be likely that you could show that this was so severe that it altered the terms and conditions of your employment. For another example, if you were regularly touched inappropriately by coworkers over a month-long period, and you mentioned it to your boss, but your boss took no steps to stop it, your lawyer could probably show that the touching was so pervasive that it altered the terms and conditions of your employment.
Who committed the physical sexual harassment and whether the employer had notice can affect the outcome of your case. Under the NJLAD, you can hold your employer strictly liable for physical sexual harassment by supervisors with regard to equitable remedies like reinstatement or back pay. However, principles of agency may need to be applied to determine whether an employee should be responsible for compensatory damages under the NJLAD when the harasser is a supervisor.
When an employer fails to set up and publicize anti-sexual harassment policies and mechanisms to prevent sexual harassment, it can also be held liable for physical sexual harassment by a nonsupervisory coworker or supervisor under the NJLAD. However, an employer can defend against a claim if you, as the victim employee, unreasonably fail to take advantage of corrective or preventative policies that are put in place by an employer to get rid of sexual harassment.
Remedies for physical sexual harassment after liability under the applicable law is established include reinstatement or front pay, back pay, medical expenses, injunctive relief, emotional distress, and sometimes punitive damages. Employers may be held accountable for punitive damages if upper management are participating in the physical sexual harassment or are willfully indifferent to it.Explore Your Options with a Dedicated New Jersey Attorney
It can be devastating to be groped or assaulted on the job. You should be able to work in a place free from being physically harassed. The New Jersey attorneys at Phillips & Associates can provide aggressive representation. Contact us at (609) 722-7315 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.
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