What to Do if You Are Sexually Harassed at Work in New Jersey
Despite advancements toward gender equality, sexual harassment still persists in all too many New Jersey workplaces. If you work in the Northern New Jersey region, and you were subjected to sexual harassment on the job, you should know about your legal rights and how to exercise them. Not only is it possible to stop the harassment and hold the harassers accountable – it may also be possible for you to recover financial compensation. New Jersey sexual harassment attorney Usmaan Sleemi, founding attorney at the Law Offices of Usmaan Sleemi, discusses the steps an employee can take to get compensated for harassment in the workplace.
Do I Have a Sexual Harassment Case?
In order to answer this question, it is necessary to discuss what sexual harassment is.
Sexual harassment, which can contribute to a hostile work environment, occurs when an employee “is subjected to sexual, abusive, or offensive conduct because of his or her gender.” Sexual harassment can take many forms, such as sexually explicit or suggestive emails, statements, jokes, or questions. In some cases, the harassment even extends to physical contact. For example, an employee or supervisor might ask a co-worker sexual questions, touch a co-worker inappropriately, offer to promote an employee in exchange for sexual favors, or threaten an employee with termination or demotion if they do not perform sexual acts. The latter two scenarios are examples of “quid pro quo” harassment, while the others are examples of “hostile work environment” sexual harassment.
Whichever form it takes, most employees who experience sexual harassment are women. However, men can also suffer sexual harassment in the workplace. The victim or harasser may be male or female, and the harassment may be heterosexual or homosexual in nature. A male employee can harass a female employee, a female employee can harass a male employee, a male employee can harass another male employee, or a female employee can harass another female employee.
Regardless of the harasser’s gender, sexual orientation, marital status, years of experience at the company, or other job-related or personal factors, sexual harassment is prohibited by law. Specifically, the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (LAD), which applies to all but federal employers regardless of company size, bans “harassment based on protected characteristics such as race, sex or nationality.” Sexual harassment is further prohibited by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which generally applies to businesses with at least 15 employees, and which makes it illegal “to discriminate against any individual with respect to… compensation, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment, because of such individual’s” gender.
If you were subjected to sexual harassment, whether by your boss, your manager, a supervisor, or a co-worker of equal or lower standing at the company, you may be able to file a complaint and obtain compensation with help from a Northern NJ employment attorney. The next section discusses potential steps you can take to pursue compensation for the harassment you experienced.
How to File a Sexual Harassment Complaint Against an Employer in New Jersey
Preserving written and dated records is one of the most important measures you can take to increase your likelihood of prevailing in a sexual harassment case. If you were harassed at work, you should report the incident to your supervisor or HR department, which will create a paper trail that can be used as evidence in the future. You may also email the harasser, and your supervisors or HR personnel, which will create additional evidence while establishing a clear timeline of the harassment.
A New Jersey sexual harassment lawyer can help you file a claim with the New Jersey Division on Civil Rights (DCR). The DCR will investigate your claim, and recommend for or against a finding of probable cause. The DCR Director will evaluate the investigator’s findings and recommendation to determine how the case should proceed. If the DCR Director agrees with the investigator’s findings of probable cause, the next step is a scheduled hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ), whose decision will be reviewed and either confirmed or rejected by the DCR Director.
If you are able to prove that you were a victim of sexual harassment under the LAD, you may be entitled to various forms of compensation, or “damages.” Examples include:
- Compensatory Damages – True to their name, compensatory damages are intended to compensate the victim. There are two broad types of compensatory damages:
- Economic Damages – Economic damages compensate financial losses, such as wages lost due to the harassment.
- Non-Economic Damages – Non-economic damages seek to compensate pain and suffering, mental anguish, and other hardships of a physical or emotional (rather than financial) nature.
- Punitive Damages – Punitive damages are sometimes available in cases involving malicious or egregious (extreme) misconduct. Like compensatory damages, they are true to their name: punitive damages are intended as punishment.
New Jersey Sexual Harassment Attorneys Representing Employees
Sexual harassment cases can become highly contentious and emotionally charged, particularly if the employer is determined to deny that harassment occurred. It is in your best interests to have aggressive legal representation, as your attorney will be able to explain and uphold your rights, assist you with all aspects of your sexual harassment claim, and dispute evidence or counter-arguments against you.
Harassers often count on the assumption that their victims will not speak out. Do not allow a harasser to silence, abuse, or intimidate you. Take charge of the situation and assert your rights by contacting a New Jersey hostile work environment lawyer or sexual harassment lawyer. For a free and confidential legal consultation, call the Law Offices of Usmaan Sleemi at (973) 866-9415 today.