Phillips & Associates

New Jersey Visual Sexual Harassment

Employment Attorneys Fighting for the Rights of New Jersey Residents

With a population of about nine million residents, New Jersey is one of the most diverse and forward-looking states in the country. However, outdated attitudes about sex in the workplace still persist in some businesses. Workplace sexual harassment can involve speech, physical actions, or visual sexual harassment. Visual sexual harassment involves exposure, and it also involves insulting drawings, cartoons, memes, or videos. For example, if a supervisor sends you pornographic attachments with work emails, this is visual harassment. If you are subjected to visual sexual harassment on the job, our New Jersey sexual harassment lawyers may be able to hold your employer liable.

Common Forms of Visual Sexual Harassment

There are many different forms of visual sexual harassment. Often, visual sexual harassment involves images that are offensive and that insult the victim. For example, if your coworker draws a caricature of you fellating the boss and passes it around, this is visual sexual harassment. Similarly, if a coworker Photoshops your head on top of a naked porn star, this would also be visual sexual harassment.

However, even when the victim is not being portrayed, visual sexual harassment can be harmful and actionable. For example, if your female coworker tries to show you a sex tape of her with her husband, this may be offensive and unwelcome, even though you are not depicted in the video.

Lewd gestures can be a physical act and also visual harassment. For example, if your supervisor performs pelvic thrusts toward you, this is both a physical act and visual harassment. Similarly, if your coworker repeatedly makes crude gestures to say "up yours," this could be visual sexual harassment.

Remedies Under State and Federal Laws

Visual sexual harassment is prohibited in New Jersey workplaces under both Title VII and the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (NJLAD). Generally, visual sexual harassment must constitute hostile work environment harassment to be actionable. In other words, it needs to be severe or pervasive, such that it alters the terms and conditions of employment or results in an adverse employment decision. There are some important differences between federal and state laws, and you should consult an experienced attorney about your particular situation. Title VII provides protection only if your employer has a minimum of 15 employees. The NJLAD prohibits sexual harassment even if your employer has just one employee (you). There are caps on compensatory and punitive damages under Title VII, based on the size of the employer.

The NJLAD protects workers from visual sexual harassment in the workplace. When visual harassment is very severe, it may be actionable. Severity depends on how offensive the images or videos are. However, in many cases, an isolated, trivial incident will not constitute actionable sexual harassment. More often, an employee can recover damages for hostile work environment harassment because it is pervasive or there is a pattern of harassment. Pervasiveness depends on the frequency of the harassing behavior. For example, if the CEO of the company sends you pornographic stories and memes each week, and he permits an environment in which coworkers regularly send one another sexual memes, this is likely to be considered pervasive sexual harassment. However, even a series of small events, such as coworkers routinely sending graphic images to one another, can create a hostile work environment.

Employers can be held strictly liable for harassment by supervisors and managers under the NJLAD when it comes to equitable relief. It may be necessary to establish vicarious liability to recover compensatory damages, such as emotional distress, for a supervisor or manager's visual sexual harassment under the NJLAD. Employers can also be held liable for sexual harassment by coworkers when they have been notified of the harassment or should have known about the harassment for another reason, but they took no preventative or curative steps.

Consult a Knowledgeable Sexual Harassment Attorney in New Jersey

All workers in New Jersey should be able to work in a place free from visual sexual harassment. The New Jersey attorneys at Phillips & Associates can provide aggressive, experienced advocacy. Contact us at (609) 722-7315 or via our online form for a free case evaluation. We help employees 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.

100 Overlook Center, 2nd Floor
Princeton, NJ 08540
Tel: 609-722-7315

Managing Partner in New Jersey - Bryan Arce

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