Sexual Harassment Claims
I think I am being sexually harassed at work, how do I prove it?
In New Jersey you can claim Quid Pro Quo or hostile work environment sexual harassment.
To prove a claim of Quid Pro Quo sexual harassment, you must show all of the following:
To prove a claim of hostile working environment sexual harassment, you must show all of the following:
What does "Quid Pro Quo" sexual harassment look like?
Quid pro quo literally means "something for something." Quid pro quo sexual harassment occurs when a supervisor behaves in a way or demands actions from an employee that forces an employee to decide between giving into sexual demands or losing their job, losing job benefits or promotion, or otherwise suffering tangible job determents.
What does "Hostile Work Environment" sexual harassment look like?
If your workplace is infused with intimidation, ridicule, and insult that is severe or pervasive enough to create a seriously uncomfortable or abusive working environment, then you may have a claim of hostile work environment sexual harassment. The conduct must be severe enough to create a work environment that a reasonable person would find hostile.
How do I show that this conduct affected my ability to work?
If your behavior has significantly changed, you have sought counseling, or you have been absent from work due to your uneasiness because of the harassment, you may be able to show that your ability to work was indeed affected.
How do I show that my employer knew what was going on?
Keep records! Note dates of harassment, specific language used, and ask other women if they are experiencing the same treatment. File a complaint through the proper channels at your work, and if none are provided, start documenting instances of harassment and go to your boss or boss's supervisor if you feel that your harassment is severe. The more documentation and facts you have to back you up, the better your case will be.
Can I file a claim against my boss/supervisor under New Jersey state law?
Yes. You can file a claim against your boss or supervisor. Supervisors and managers who participate in the sexual harassment are subject to lawsuit. You may file a claim against individuals who knowingly give substantial assistance or encouragement to an employer's unlawful conduct.
Can I bring a claim against my co-worker if he is not my boss or supervisor?
Yes. You can bring a claim against a co-worker that is not your boss or supervisor. However, it is harder to prove that a co-worker's harassment actually created a hostile work environment because co-workers don't usually have the same kind of influence that employers or supervisors have.
I complained to my employer and they reprimanded the harasser. Can I still file a claim?
Yes. However if your employer has a possible defense to your allegations if it has a well-established policy against sexual harassment that it enforces.
I reported to my employer, but they didn't do anything -- can I still file a claim?
Yes, you can still file a claim. Evidence that your employer did not actively seek to prevent or correct sexual harassment may be important in making a strong claim. In New Jersey when an employer knows or should know of the harassment and fails to take effective measures to stop it, the employer has joined with the harasser in making the working environment hostile. The employer, by failing to take action, sends the harassed employee the message that the harassment is acceptable and that the management supports the harasser.
What if my harasser is also a woman?
The LAD recognizes same-sex sexual harassment claims. The only requirement in proving same-sex sexual harassment is that the conduct must have offensive sexual connotations. The complained-of conduct is not actionable if it consistent with the innocent ways that men and women routinely interact with members of the same and opposite sex. The use of crude and vulgar language is not sexual harassment unless it is used because of the victim's sex. For example, if some of your co-workers have sexually graphic conversation this is not sexual harassment if it would have occurred regardless of your sex.
Is one incident of sexual harassment sufficient basis for a claim?
The court has rarely found that one offensive incident is sufficient evidence of sexual harassment. Normally it is better if you produce evidence of numerous and frequent incidents that show a pattern of hostility and harassment, because a pattern is more likely to show that the sexual harassment was severe and serious.
Can I get damages for emotional distress?
If you have suffered humiliation, embarrassment, and indignity you may receive damages for emotional distress. Victims of discrimination can obtain compensation for their mental anguish as well as emotional and physical ailments.
What is the difference between sex discrimination and sexual harassment?
Sexual harassment is often a part of sex discrimination. Sex discrimination encompasses many types of discrimination including pregnancy discrimination, unequal pay claims and disparate impact.
What could my employer do to deny my allegations, and how do I respond to their denials?
Once you have presented your evidence of discrimination, your employer can present evidence that the conduct did not take place or it can present a legitimate, nondiscriminatory reason that this conduct was not discriminatory. You will then have the chance to persuade the trier of fact (i.e. the local division, judge, or jury) your employer's reasons were pretextual or cover-up for their discriminatory conduct.
Does it matter when the discrimination occurred?
Under the LAD, you must file a claim with the New Jersey Division on Civil rights within one-hundred and eighty (180) days of the discrimination. If you wish to bypass the Division, and file with the New Jersey Superior Court, you must file within 2 years of the discrimination.For more information on how to file a claim, click here.
What options do I have if my employer has fewer than fifteen (15) employees?
While you are only protected under federal law if your employee has more than fifteen (15) employees, under the LAD, you are protected regardless of how many employees your employer has. So while you may not be able to file a federal claim, your claim in New Jersey is still valid.
If I prove my harassment claim, what remedies am I entitled to?
You will be entitled to equitable relief, which is relief intended to make you whole again. You may be able to recover remedies such as back pay to compensate you for lost earnings, front pay to compensate for a pay differential resulting from discrimination, injunctive relief to correct your employer's discriminatory practices, or reinstatement to any position that you lost as a result of discrimination.
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