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Are You Suffering in a Hostile Work Environment?

By Thomas McKinney

We spend so much of our lives working. After all, someone has to pay the bills, right? While most of us will find struggles in the workplace, whether it is an overwhelming to-do list or contending with the varying personalities of co-workers, no one should have to contend with a hostile work environment. In fact, there are legal protections in place to guard against such a thing.

Are You Suffering in a Hostile Work Environment?

A hostile work environment does not mean that you are working with a bunch of angry people. In the legal sense, a hostile work environment in New Jersey refers to one in which an employee has been subjected to discrimination based on protected characteristics. The New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (NJLAD) prohibits this from happening in the workplace. Protected characteristics include:

  • Disability
  • Gender
  • Race
  • Religion
  • Sexual Orientation
  • Veteran status

A hostile work environment means that an employee or group of employees has been subjected to an offensive, abusive, or intimidating atmosphere based on a protected characteristic. Such an atmosphere can be created subtly by supervisors or co-workers or more overtly. Harassment can be direct or indirect such as an employee suffering from workplace retaliation related to the harassment, such as filing a report.

If you are suffering from harassment in the workplace, any harassing conduct should be immediately reported to human resources. Not only does the NJLAD provide protections from harassment that creates a hostile work environment, but it imposes a responsibility on employers to prevent harassment in the workplace and investigate claims as well as take steps to swiftly address and resolve harassment claims and incidences. Should an employer fail to comply with these requirements, a hostile work environment may ensue and a victimized employee will have certain remedies available to them.

Those who have suffered under a hostile work environment may be able to recover certain damages from an employer. In fact, there may be several types of damages available. Injunctive relief can put an immediate stop to the conditions created by the hostile work environment or the retaliatory actions of an employer. Remedies may also include compensatory damages for harm an employee suffered in the hostile work environment. Compensatory damages may be awarded for things such as pain and suffering and emotional distress as well as lost wages and interest on lost wages. Attorney’s fees may also be included in a damages award.

While compensatory damages are rather standard in hostile work environment cases, punitive damages are much rarer but may be available in certain cases. Punitive damages are reserved for particularly egregious and outrageous incidences of harassment in the workplace. It should also be noted that pain and suffering damages as well as those for emotional distress can be difficult to recover as well and often reserved for more extreme situations.

New Jersey Employment Law Attorneys

If you have been suffering in a hostile work environment, you need not do so any longer. Do not hesitate to reach out to the trusted team at Castronovo & McKinney for immediate assistance. Contact us today.

About the Author
Tom McKinney is an experienced NJ Employment Lawyer in all major areas of labor and employment law, including discrimination, harassment, overtime violations, wage and hour claims, sexual harassment, wrongful discharge, Title VII, ADA, ADEA, FMLA, LAD, FLSA, and all other employment law claims. Tom is admitted to practice in the States of New Jersey and New York, United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York, Southern District of New York, District of New Jersey, and United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit. Prior to forming the firm, Tom practiced at Gibbons P.C. in Newark, NJ. If you have any questions regarding this article, contact Tom here today.