Sexual harassment is illegal in New Jersey workplaces.
New Jersey’s Law Against Discrimination (LAD) protects employees against discrimination and harassment 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. The second type is sexual harassment related to a hostile work environment.
Quid Pro Quo Sexual Harassment
Both men and women can become victims of quid pro quo sexual harassment. This is treated very seriously under New Jersey law. In fact, an employer will be subject to strict liability in a quid pro quo sexual harassment case.
“Quid pro quo” is a Latin phrase meaning “this for that.” This kind of sexual harassment involve an exchange of perks, benefits, or advancements for sexual favors or actions.
Workplace quid pro quo sexual harassment can occur in several different ways that impose liability on an employer.
- A job benefit may be offered by a superior in exchange for sexual favors or sexual activity. For example, a manager might propose an employee have sex with him in exchange for a promotion, pay raise, or time off.
- An employee may be led to believe that the only way to prevent losing a job benefit (or their job itself) is to provide sexual favors or engage in sexual activity with a superior. For example, a supervisor may threaten to fire or demote an employee unless he or she agrees to sexual activity.
- A worker may be threatened by a co-worker into engaging in sexual activity. If an employer knew or should have known about this kind of sexual coercion in the workplace and took no steps to stop or prevent it, it might be liable for the sexual harassment.
Although each type of quid pro quo sexual harassment is slightly different, they are all illegal.
Hostile Work Environment
Hostile work environment sexual harassment occurs when an employee is subjected to unwelcome or offensive conduct based on their gender or sexuality. This includes sexually abusive conduct, conduct that is substantially sexual in nature, 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 hostile work environment under the law.
Proving Sexual Harassment Under the NJ LAD
A claimant must prove several elements to succeed on a claim of sexual harassment under the New Jersey LAD.
- First, the employee must prove that the conduct actually occurred. This can be done using 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.
Recovering Damages for Sexual Harassment
An employee who successfully establishes all the elements of a sexual harassment claim may be entitled to a number of different remedies. If a victim brings a successful claim, they may be eligible for various remedies under the law. These remedies include medical expenses, lost wages, back pay, front pay, other monetary damages, attorneys’ fees, emotional distress, and possibly 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 can be vital for victims to have the support of a skilled, experienced legal team.
A victim must initiate legal action before the statute of limitations runs out; otherwise, you may forfeit the right to recover. If you believe you have been the victim of workplace sexual harassment, it is important that you act quickly.
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.