New Jersey Law Against Discrimination — Sexual Harassment

New Jersey’s Law Against Discrimination (LAD) protects employees against discrimination and harassment in the workplace when the discrimination or harassment is based on protected characteristics.  Included under this provision is very broad protection against sexual harassment. In fact, the New Jersey LAD’s protections even apply in some situations where an employer did not intend to harass an employee or the employee was not the target of the conduct that gave rise to the sexual harassment claim.

 

There are two main types of sexual harassment.  The first, which is known as quid pro quo sexual harassment, occurs when an employer or a supervisor demands, requests, or implies that an employee must engage in sexual activity in order to receive an employment benefit.  For instance, if a manager tells one of his employees that the employee must engage in a sexual act in order to receive a promotion or to avoid termination, then the manager has likely committed quid pro quo sexual harassment.

 

The second type of sexual harassment is known as hostile work environment sexual harassment.  Hostile work environment sexual harassment occurs when an employee is subjected to unwelcome or offensive conduct that is based on the employee’s gender.  This includes conduct that is substantially sexual in nature, sexually abusive conduct, or offensive conduct with sexual overtones or connotations.  Although physical conduct can constitute hostile work environment sexual harassment, physical conduct is not necessary to support this type of sexual harassment claim.  Furthermore, the conduct does not need to be sexually explicit in nature.  For instance, continued derogatory remarks made against members of a certain gender can be enough to create a situation of hostile work environment sexual harassment.

 

In order to prove a claim of sexual harassment under the New Jersey LAD, an employee must establish several elements.  First, the employee must prove that the conduct actually occurred.  This can be done through witness testimony and other evidence.  Next, the employee must convince a jury that the conduct actually constituted either quid pro quo or hostile work environment sexual harassment.  This element does not require proof that the employee bringing forth the claim was the specific target of the conduct in question.  Finally, the employee must explain to the jury why the employer should be held responsible for the alleged conduct.  The employee is not required to prove that his or her employer actually intended to harass the employee.  Simply proving that harassment occurred, even without establishing intent, is sufficient.

 

An employee who successfully establishes all the elements of a sexual harassment claim may be entitled to a number of different remedies.  Remedies available for a sexual harassment claim filed under the New Jersey LAD include monetary damages for lost wages, attorneys’ fees, and, in some situations, punitive damages.  Although it is not necessary for an employee to show actual harm in order to bring a successful sexual harassment claim, the amount of harm caused by the harassment is often used to determine the amount the employee can recover in damages.

 

Courts take claims of sexual harassment very seriously because of the incredible pain and emotional distress that sexual harassment can cause.  Workers who are victims of sexual harassment have rights that the legal system recognizes and respects.  Due to the emotional nature of a sexual harassment claim, however, it is important for sexual harassment victims to receive the legal support necessary in order to properly exercise their rights.  If you have been or think you have been subjected to unlawful sexual harassment, an experienced employment attorney can assist you in evaluating your situation and protecting your rights.  With the help of a lawyer who will diligently fight for you, you can use the law to file a sexual harassment claim and secure the justice that you deserve.