Not all employees in every situation are necessarily protected against a hostile environment in a New Jersey workplace. Sometimes, an employee will complain to a supervisor or to human resources about harassment at work only to be fired in retaliation. The reason is that if the harassment they face at work is not presented in the context of the person being part of a protected class, it might not be illegal for an employer to ignore the complain or terminate them.
It is illegal to harass or discriminate against an employee based on a number of factors such as age, race, national origin, disability, and religion. If the employee can show that the harassment is due to belonging to one of those protected classes, employers are usually prohibited from retaliating. An employee is also protected from retaliation for using the Family and Medical Leave Act. Whistle-blowers are protected as well.
Employees cannot be fired for joining their coworkers to bring improvements to the working environment. This may include attempting to stop workplace harassment, so an employee who reports harassment with a group of other coworkers or on behalf of someone else may be protected.
Because of complications like these and the fact that there are a few exceptions, such as the exemption of very small companies from some discrimination laws, people who face harassment at work might want to speak to an attorney first about what they can do. An attorney may be able to offer a strategy for documenting the harassment and demonstrating how it breaks the law. The person might be able to file a lawsuit against the employer. If the employee has faced wrongful termination, compensation for back pay and other damages might be obtainable.