Sexual harassment is an issue that has long plagued workplaces, undermining the safety, dignity, and equality of employees. Fortunately, in recent years, there has been a growing awareness of this problem, leading to increased efforts to address and prevent sexual harassment in various jurisdictions.
In this blog post, we will focus on New Jersey's approach to addressing workplace sexual harassment. We will explore the legal framework, employer obligations, and the resources available to victims in the state.
Legal Framework for Protections Against Sexual Harassment
New Jersey has enacted comprehensive legislation to combat workplace sexual harassment. The New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (NJLAD) serves as the primary legal framework. The NJLAD prohibits discrimination, including sexual harassment, in employment, housing, and public accommodations.
It applies to both public and private sector employers, regardless of the size of the company. The law defines sexual harassment as unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, or any other conduct of a sexual nature that adversely affects an individual's employment.
Employer Obligations in New Jersey
Under the NJLAD, employers are responsible for preventing and addressing workplace sexual harassment. They are required to maintain a work environment that is free from harassment, intimidation, and discrimination. Key obligations include:
Written Policies: Employers must adopt a comprehensive anti-harassment policy that clearly defines prohibited conduct, outlines reporting procedures, and explains the consequences for violations. This policy should be distributed to all employees.
Training: Employers with 50 or more employees are mandated to provide interactive, annual anti-harassment training to supervisors and managers. The training must cover the definition of sexual harassment, examples of prohibited conduct, and information on reporting procedures.
Reporting and Investigation: Employers must establish procedures for reporting incidents of sexual harassment. They are obligated to conduct prompt, thorough, and impartial investigations into all complaints. If an investigation substantiates the allegations, appropriate disciplinary actions must be taken.
Non-Retaliation: Employers are prohibited from retaliating against employees who report sexual harassment or participate in related investigations. Retaliation includes adverse actions such as termination, demotion, or harassment.
Resources for Workplace Sexual Harassment Victims
New Jersey provides several avenues of support for victims of workplace sexual harassment:
Filing a Complaint: Individuals who experience sexual harassment can file a complaint with the New Jersey Division on Civil Rights (DCR) or the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). These agencies investigate complaints and may take legal action on behalf of victims.
Time Limitations: It is important to note that there are time limitations for filing complaints. In New Jersey, individuals must file a complaint with the DCR within 180 days of the alleged incident, and within 300 days if they choose to file with the EEOC.
Private Lawsuits: Victims of sexual harassment have the option to file a private lawsuit against their employer. If successful, they may be entitled to damages such as lost wages, emotional distress, and attorney fees.
Support and Advocacy: Various organizations, such as the New Jersey Coalition Against Sexual Assault (NJCASA) and local women's shelters, offer counseling, support services, and legal advocacy to victims of sexual harassment.
Addressing workplace sexual harassment requires a multifaceted approach involving legal protections, employer obligations, and support for victims. New Jersey has implemented robust measures through the NJLAD to combat sexual harassment, holding employers accountable and providing resources to those affected.
If you're facing sexual harassment in the workplace, contact our team today to discuss your options!