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Understanding workplace sexual harassment

Most New Jersey employees know that they are protected against sexual harassment in the workplace, but there may be some confusion about the specifics of state and federal law concerning this issue. The Civil Rights Division of the New Jersey Department of Law and Public Safety defines sexual harassment as a form of sexual discrimination where a person behaves in an unwanted behavior toward another person. Employees may benefit from learning about how this law applies to the workplace and the steps to seek remedy for violations.

Employers are required to institute policies that protect all of their employees, even temporary or casual ones, from sexual harassment. The may include a harassment reporting policy, prevention training or even steps for an employee to take when confronted with harassment from a customer. When this type of sexual discrimination occurs, an employer failing to address it is in violation of the law.

Employees are tasked with calling attention to incidents of sexual harassment. Any actions taken to penalize an employee for speaking out are also considered illegal. Mandatory employer actions following a complaint include rapid investigation and action that effectively stops the harassment. Sexual discrimination laws are enforced by the state agency.

Harassment at work may result in emotional distress, medical problems, lost income and promotion opportunities and many other damages. Reports made to the state agency may result in actions to stop the harassment, but workers may still be left in a financial bind without due compensation. Documenting these damages, gathering evidence of sexual harassment and filing a complaint are often too much added stress for someone who is already experiencing the stress of harassment. An experienced attorney may be able to help document damages and recover compensation from an employer or other parties through the appropriate measures.

Source: New Jersey courts, "Sexual Harassment - Your Rights", September 17, 2014

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