Sexual harassment is never tolerable, but it is unfortunately common in many workplaces. Despite federal and state laws against discrimination, including sexual harassment, and the policies many employers implement to prevent it, people are still harassed by their coworkers and supervisors.
At Green Savits, LLC, we find this unacceptable. If you have dealt with sexual harassment, our experienced employment attorneys will fight to bring you justice. This blog explains how workplace sexual harassment is defined and how to file a claim against your harasser and your employer.
What is Sexual Harassment?
Sexual harassment is prohibited federally under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as well as at the state level under the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination. The law recognizes two forms of sexual harassment:
- Quid pro quo: The Latin translation of "something for something," quid pro quo harassment is when a person of authority in the workplace uses sex as a condition for getting or keeping a job, raise, promotion, or benefit. For example, if your supervisor demands that you have sex with them to get a bonus, that constitutes quid pro quo harassment. A single instance of this is enough to file a claim.
- Hostile work environment: This is conduct that is unwelcome, sexual in nature, and severe or pervasive enough to create an environment in which you can no longer safely or comfortably work. Courts analyze numerous factors when assessing a hostile work environment claim, including the frequency of the conduct, whether one person was singled out, and whether the behavior was verbal, physical, or both.
What to do if You're Sexually Harassed in the Workplace
If you experience sexual harassment on the job, these are the preliminary steps you should take:
- Tell the harasser their actions are offensive: Confronting your offender is one of the most difficult things you can do. However, doing so may stop their behavior entirely and save you the trouble of filing a claim. If your harasser doesn't stop, you will still be able to show your company's human resources department that you took this step before you escalated your complaint. If you tell your harasser to stop in writing or an email, make sure you keep a copy.
- Write everything down: Don't just keep emails about your harassment. Write down each incident of harassment as it happens. Be as specific as possible and include details such as date, time, people involved, witnesses, how the harassment made you feel, and how it impacted your work. This may be painful, but it will strengthen your case and help you clearly remember events.
- Report the harassment to HR: If confronting your harasser didn't make them stop, escalate your complaint to your company's HR department. Follow your company's reporting protocols, and provide all the documentation that you've been compiling. If you don't get the proper response, keep escalating up the chain of command.
- File an administrative charge: This is the point where you should hire an attorney. If your employer does nothing about your complaint or retaliates against you for making it, your next step is to file a charge with either the federal Equal Opportunity Employment Commission or the New Jersey Division on Civil Rights. You must do this before you can sue. There is a 180-day statute of limitations to file a charge. After you do, the office will investigate your complaint. If the EEOC or DCR find your charge was valid, they may attempt to mediate a settlement between you and your employer. If that fails, they'll issue a "right to sue" letter.
- File a lawsuit: If you filed a charge with and received a "right to sue" letter from the EEOC, you can file a lawsuit in federal court. If you went through the DCR, you may submit it in New Jersey Superior Court.
Protection for Reporting Sexual Harassment in New Jersey
If you witness one of your coworkers being sexually harassed, the New Jersey Conscientious Employee Protection Act gives you legal protection from retaliation if you report it.
Your right to a sexual-harassment-free extends to behavior that is not targeted at you. If you reported the sexual harassment of another person and were retaliated against, you may also be able to file a claim against your employer.
Contact our New Jersey Employment Lawyers Today
At Green Savits, LLC, our attorneys are committed to pursuing justice for survivors of sexual harassment. We will fight tirelessly to ensure that your harasser is punished for their behavior, and your employer is held accountable for enabling them.
We serve Florham Park and surrounding areas of New Jersey. Call (973) 695-7777 today to schedule a consultation.