NJ Hostile Work Environment Attorney
Standing Up for Employees throughout New Jersey
The average person spends at least half of their waking hours at work. If you are mistreated in the workplace because of a protected trait, your job can become unbearable, even unsafe in extreme situations.
At The Law Firm of Morgan Rooks, P.C., our team fights for employees in New Jersey and Pennsylvania who are subjected to a hostile work environment.
What Is a Hostile Work Environment?
Many employees make complaints about a “hostile work environment.” When it comes to legal rights, it’s important to distinguish between the dictionary definition of “hostile” and the legal definition of “hostile.”
For a work environment to be hostile under the law, the hostility must be based on a protected trait or characteristic. Co-workers or supervisors who are rude to everyone, regardless of their protected traits, are not in violation of the law. If your manager or supervisor yells and screams or goes on rants and tirades, that conduct is not actionable unless it implicates the protected traits of the employee or the employee’s co-workers.
Protected traits (also known as protected characteristics) include, but are not limited to, the following:
- National origin
- Skin color
- Sexual Orientation
- Gender identity
- Familial and Marital Status
- AIDS or HIV Status
- Liability for Military Service
The list of protected traits varies by state. Protected traits that are identified under federal law usually provides a baseline, but states have the authority to protect additional traits or characteristics from discriminatory actions. For example, the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination encompasses relationship status (including marital, domestic partnership, or civil union status) and sexual orientation as protected traits.
If you are subjected to severe or pervasive hostility that is motivated by one or more of your legally protected characteristics, consult with our hostile work environment attorneys in New Jersey. You may be eligible to file a claim and seek monetary damages from your employer if they are liable for your mistreatment.
Harassment Creates a Hostile Environment
Workplace harassment is synonymous with a hostile work environment. Harassment is unwelcome conduct that is based on a protected trait. To be actionable under the law, an employee must be subjected to a hostile work environment or harassment that is based on a protected trait.
The conduct which is complained of must be either sufficiently severe or pervasive such that it alters the conditions of employment.
Not every comment or stray remark creates a hostile work environment under the law. To be actionable, a reasonable person standing in the shoes of the harassed employee would have also feel that the conduct was severe or pervasive to the point that the terms and conditions of the person’s employment were detrimentally altered.
Even Untargeted Employees Can Be Affected by a Hostile Work Environment in New Jersey
The person complaining of a hostile work environment does not have to be the target of discriminatory or harassing conduct that is based on a protected trait. Any employee who is affected by offensive conduct that is based on a protected trait can make a claim for a hostile work environment. For example, if your supervisor makes frequent negative comments about lesbians, you do not have to be a lesbian to find the workplace hostile based on those frequent comments.
A Hostile Work Environment Affects Job Performance, Well-Being
The impact of a hostile work environment is pervasive. The prohibited conduct can detract from employees’ job performance, discourage employees from remaining on the job, or prevent employees from advancing in their careers.
The damage goes beyond one’s employment. Workplace harassment can also reduce an employee’s psychological well-being.
To determine whether a work environment is "hostile,” the following nonexclusive factors are considered:
- The frequency of the conduct that is directed at a protected trait
- The severity of the conduct that is directed at a protected trait
- Whether the conduct is physically threatening or humiliating
- Whether the conduct unreasonably interferes with an employee’s work performance
- Whether the harasser has power over the person being harassed (e.g., whether the harasser is a supervisor or manager)
Prohibited Behavior Leads to a Hostile Workplace
The actions and words of colleagues, supervisors, managers, and others at work can contribute to creating and fostering a hostile workplace.
Examples of conduct that could create a hostile work environment include, but are not limited to the following:
- Repeated comments about a protected trait or characteristic (e.g., disability, race, gender, religion, sexual orientation, national origin)
- Repeated jokes about a protected trait or characteristic
- Sending offensive messages, images, memes, or pictures through text messages and email pertaining to a protected trait or characteristic
- Sexually explicit banter or conversation in the workplace
- Pornography in the workplace
- Giving employees nicknames that offend or implicate a protected trait or characteristic
- Unwelcome sexual advances
Hostile Work Environments Involving Sex Discrimination
A hostile work environment can exist when an employee is subjected to sexual harassment, which is sex discrimination.
Such behavior can include the following:
- Engaging in unwanted touching, including more serious offenses such as sexual assault.
- Discussing sexual activity, sexually suggestive topics, or using explicit language.
- Making unwelcomed comments that refer to someone else’s body or appearance.
- Displaying sexually explicit material, images or writing, anywhere at the worksite.
- Transferring sexually suggestive or explicit content to coworkers via email, instant messages, text messages, and other media.
- Telling jokes derogatory “jokes” about a sex or sexual orientation, or those that are sexually explicit.
Hostile Work Environments Rooted in Race or Religious Discrimination
A hostile work environment based on discrimination against someone’s race or religion can include transgressions such as the following:
- Displaying racially charged cartoons, pictures, quotes, and other content around the office
- Using racial or ethnic slurs, or other language that discriminates against someone’s race or religion
- Telling offensive “jokes” that involve race and/or religion
Proving a Hostile Work Environment Claim in New Jersey
Discrimination against an employee’s protected characteristics is vital to a hostile work environment claim, but even this may not be enough to win a lawsuit.
To succeed, the plaintiff in a hostile work environment claim must prove the following:
- The conduct experienced by the employee is discriminatory and directed toward a protected characteristic.
- The conduct has occurred over time or is pervasive; it is not limited to a stray remark or relatively minor isolated incident. An employer’s failure to investigate or correct the conduct can contribute to its pervasiveness.
- The conduct is severe enough that it negatively impacts the employee’s ability to work.
- The conduct continues to occur, despite the employee making it clear that it is not welcomed.
Protect Your Rights Against a Hostile Work Environment in New Jersey
Our law firm focuses on defending the rights of employees in New Jersey and Pennsylvania.
If you regularly experience a hostile work environment or workplace harassment that has become a condition of your continued employment, contact The Law Firm of Morgan Rooks, P.C.
If you experience conduct based on a protected trait in the workplace that is severe or pervasive enough such that a reasonable person would consider it to be intimidating, hostile, or abusive, you should speak to the experienced employment attorneys at The Law Firm of Morgan Rooks, P.C.
Call (856) 746-6332 to speak to us about your workplace claim. Your consultation is free.
Attorney Franklin Rooks is absolutely amazing.
“He helped me through the toughest time in my life. I can't thank him and his firm enough.”
Highly recommend this law firm.
“Frank helped me out after wrongfully losing my job when I was going through complications with my pregnancy.”
5 gold stars!
“Hire this law firm. You will be glad you did!”
Reliable, trustworthy & competent attorney.
“The deposition he took from the other party was very thorough and well prepared; this has helped me to get what is right.”
I highly recommend this law firm!
“Frank made my pregnancy much less stressful after wrongfully losing my job.”
No Upfront Payments Required!
We do not bill by the hour. We are contingency based, meaning that we only collect a percentage of the awarded compensations from the case if it is wonGet Started Today
Helping Employees Fight Sexual Misconduct at Work
If you experienced unwanted conduct of a sexual nature by a coworker, supervisor, or someone else at work, we can help.Learn More