At your work, are you regularly asked offensive or inappropriate questions based on your gender? Are you subjected to constant, abusive teasing by the opposite sex? Do you feel that you’ve missed out on workplace opportunities or promotions due to your sex or gender identity? You may be the victim of sexual harassment or gender discrimination at work, and The Law Firm of Morgan Rooks, P.C. can help.
It’s illegal to be discriminated against or harassed based on your sex or gender identity at a place of employment, public accommodation, and housing. Sexual harassment can include physical acts, such as unwanted grabbing and, touching. It also can include making sexually suggestive comments, jokes, or sexual advances.
At The Law Firm of Morgan Rooks, P.C., our seasoned attorneys are well-versed in the laws in New Jersey that protect employees from becoming the victim of sexual harassment and discrimination. You should feel safe at work and not worry that your sex, gender, race, or another signifier will cause your employer to mistreat you. Our compassionate attorneys will advocate for you skillfully and aggressively.
You have rights, and we will leverage the full weight of the law to assert them on your behalf. Schedule a consultation with us today by calling (856) 817-6221, and we’ll discuss your options and your best path forward.
New Jersey Law Against Discrimination
Under the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination, it’s unlawful to discriminate or harass people based on any of the following protected categories:
- National origin
- Sexual orientation
- Gender identity or expression
- Familial status
- Marital status
- Domestic partnership/civil union status
- Liability for military service
- Atypical hereditary cellular or blood trait
- Genetic information
Hostile Work Environment
A hostile work environment in regard to sexual harassment is one in which a person is subjected to unwelcome advances, offensive gender-related language, sexual innuendo, that is sufficiently severe or pervasive to create an abusive work environment. To establish sexual harassment based on a hostile work environment, you must demonstrate four elements:
- If not for your sex, the offensive conduct would not have occurred;
- It was pervasive or severe enough for;
- A reasonable person of the same sex to believe that;
- The working conditions are hostile.
Generally, laws don’t prohibit one isolated incident such as an offhand remark or simple teasing that is not construed as serious. The actions must be discriminatory in nature to prove sexual harassment in a hostile work environment. Additionally, there isn’t a specific number of instances that constitute a hostile work environment from sexual harassment. The legal system will review the offensive behavior as a whole to determine if it created a hostile work environment for the victim. Whether a work environment is “hostile” or “abusive” is determined by examining all of the circumstances. These circumstances may include the frequency of the discriminatory conduct; the severity of the conduct; whether the conduct is physically threatening or humiliating, and whether the conduct unreasonably interferes with an employee’s work performance.
Quid Pro Quo
Another example of sexual harassment is “quid pro quo.” This happens when one person bases another’s employment status, terms, or conditions on whether they comply with requested sexual acts. To prove quid pro quo sexual harassment occurred, an employee must show that his or her response to unwelcome sexual conduct or advances was used as a basis for the employer’s decision about compensation, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment.
Under these circumstances, laws aim to protect individuals from their superiors. No one should worry about whether they will get fired or miss out on a promotion because they rejected their manager’s sexual advances. A quid pro quo case can protect you and hold your employer accountable for the actions of the manager or supervisor.
Employees have the right to complain about sexual harassment in the workplace. The law makes it illegal for an employer to retaliate against its employee for reporting sexual harassment, complaining about sexual harassment, filing a claim of sexual harassment, or assisting another employee with a claim of sexual harassment.
If you were the victim of sexual harassment or assist a co-worker in an investigation of his or her sexual harassment, you shouldn’t face retaliation from your employer. Termination isn’t the only retaliatory behavior. Demotion, having your hours reduced, receiving less favorable work assignments, and being transferred to a less desirable position within the company because you reported sexual harassment., are other forms of retaliation.
Gender discrimination happens when an employer uses an employee’s gender to determine their employment status, conditions, or terms. To prove gender discrimination in the workplace, you must generally demonstrate that you performed your job to a level that met your employer’s expectations, and suffered adverse employments anyway.
It’s often difficult to prove gender discrimination because, most of the time, there isn’t concrete evidence. Most victims must rely on circumstantial evidence, such as comments their employer made or getting passed up for a promotion by someone who isn’t as qualified for the job as you.
What to Do If You’re Sexually Harassed at Work
Many cases come down to “he said, she said” so establishing proof can be challenging. If you’re the victim of sexual harassment or discrimination at your job, you should document those instances in detail. Write down specific dates and times and the behavior or statement made. If you received an inappropriate email, text, or document, keep a copy of it. Be sure to note any retaliatory behaviors your employer exhibited when you defended yourself against the sexual advances or rejected their request for sexual acts.
You should find out your employer’s policy on making reports of sexual harassment and report the behavior to your supervisor and human resources. If any of your coworkers are aware of the sexual harassment, write down their names and phone numbers. They might be able to testify in court if your case makes it to trial.
It’s crucial that you don’t attempt to handle the situation on your own. You could end up making it worse, and an attorney defending your employer could use your words against you in court. Contact an experienced sexual harassment and gender discrimination lawyer to handle the legal aspects on your behalf. When you hire The Law Firm of Morgan Rooks, P.C., we’ll perform our own investigation into the incident and collect all relevant evidence.
Filing a Complaint at Work
If you face discrimination or harassment at work, you can take legal action by filing a complaint with your supervisor, the HR department, or anyone at your company with authority. The specifics of filing a complaint vary from company to company, so make sure to consult your employee handbook to identify the written procedures for making a complaint. Once identified, follow the steps to the letter, and turn to an attorney to help you draft the document. Whatever your company procedures, be sure to make your complaint in writing to officially put the company on notice, while also allowing them to change course and fix the issues. A written complaint also protects your rights to pursue legal action in the future if your employer doesn’t respond appropriately or remedy the problem.
Along with being in writing, the complaint must call out the action deemed harassing or discriminatory. It’s important to note that the complaint cannot be vague, and it cannot allege one’s boss is harassing them because they are “mean.” It should also define the protected trait you believe leads to discrimination, be it gender, sexual preference, race, or religion. A complaint based on any of these types of discrimination is deemed “protected activity,” meaning an employer is prohibited from retaliating after receiving a complaint.
After receiving a complaint, employers may claim an “affirmative defense” to protect themselves from legal recourse. To evoke the affirmative defense and avoid liability claims, an employer must show that they took swift and appropriate steps to remedy the illegal discrimination or harassment and that the employee failed to take advantage of the corrective resolutions. While it is available, it’s not always applicable. For example, when an employee is demoted or terminated, they will not be able to claim an affirmative defense.
What Is a Statute of Limitations?
A statute of limitations is the deadline someone has to pursue civil action against another. It’s a strict deadline, and if you miss it, you’ll lose your right to file a lawsuit for this specific matter. If you try to sue the liable party, the court will likely dismiss your case due to the passed statute.
The statute of limitations for sexual harassment under the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination is two years. That means you have two years from the date the incident occurred to file a lawsuit against the offender. In Pennsylvania, sexual harassment claims must be filed within 300 days at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) or within 180 days at the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission. You should contact a lawyer and begin the process immediately after the harassment occurs. It takes time to build a strong case and obtain sufficient evidence that proves the unwanted conduct that happened.
Employers Have a Legal Obligation to Keep Employees Safe from Sexual Harassment
It’s your employer’s responsibility to ensure their employees are free from sexual harassment or discrimination in the workplace. They may become liable for damages when sexual harassment occurs if they aren’t able to take advantage of what is called an “affirmative defense.” If a supervisor creates a hostile work environment, the employer may escape liability if it can show that it reasonably tried to prevent and promptly correct the harassing behavior and if can also show that the employee unreasonably failed to take advantage of the employer’s complaint/reporting mechanisms.
There are two types of damages you could pursue in a sexual harassment case: equitable and monetary.
Equitable damages don’t include financial compensation. They’re intangible rewards, such as job reinstatement and putting an end to the unwanted conduct. Monetary damages include compensation for lost wages, emotional distress, and other suffering endured by the employee.
An employer is liable for any form of sexual harassment at their place of business if a supervisor sexually harasses a subordinate employee and causes the termination, loss of wages, suspension, or other adverse action to the employee.
An employer could also be liable for sexual harassment if negligence existed. The theory of negligence applies when the employer fails to provide reasonable care to their employees concerning workplace sexual harassment. There are five factors of negligence to prove when using the theory of negligence:
- If the employer has formal policies that prohibit employees from harassing others in the workplace;
- If there are formal and informal methods available for victims of sexual harassment to use when making complaints against another person;
- If the employer provides sexual harassment training to managers and supervisors and all employees;
- If the employer has appropriate structures for checking how trustworthy their policies are; and
- If the employer committed to their policies and made it clear that they don’t tolerate harassment at their place of business.
How The Law Firm of Morgan Rooks, P.C. Can Help
You’re going through something traumatic, and we want to help. When you hire us, you can depend on us to work diligently to prove your claim and seek the justice you deserve. We have experience holding employers responsible for their actions. You have rights, and if your employer violated your rights in some way, we’ll gather the evidence to prove it. We will ensure your job status doesn’t suffer, and you don’t miss out on the wages you earned.
If you were the victim of sexual harassment at work or your employer retaliated against you for your sexual harassment complaints, you should contact a New Jersey employment lawyer at The Law Firm of Morgan Rooks, P.C. right away. We’ll schedule a free consultation and meet with you to discuss the details of your case. We’ll review the information you provide and advise you on the best legal options available.
Our New Jersey sexual harassment and gender discrimination lawyers are ready to be your advocate and help you move forward from this difficult time in your life. Call us at (856) 817-6221 for a free consultation.