Workplace dynamics can often be intricate and challenging to navigate, especially when incidents of misconduct arise. While victims are encouraged to report such behaviors, it is crucial to emphasize that supervisors and managers witnessing these actions have an inherent duty to intervene. This article aims to demystify the procedures involved in reporting workplace misconduct and outlines the legal measures in place to ensure that those who voice their concerns are protected against retaliatory actions.
Ask the Attorney: My manager witnessed sexist comments that my colleague said to me, but did nothing. Is it on me to report?
For starters, it is important to point out that the manager who witnessed this type of workplace misconduct is remiss for failure to take action and has exposed your employer to legal liability. New Jersey courts have been clear in ruling that, when it comes to the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (LAD), employers have the legal obligation to not only take affirmative steps to prevent sexual harassment in the workplace but to also investigate complaints of harassment as well as put solutions in place to bring an immediate stop to harassment right away.
Under New Jersey law, employers have the obligation to investigate all complaints of harassment. This is true regardless of whether the complaining employee wishes to remain confidential. It is also true that an employer has an affirmative legal duty to stop workplace harassment even if the victim of the harassment does not complain. New Jersey courts have ruled that an employer can be held legally liable if they knew, or should have known, about workplace harassment, regardless of whether any complaint had been filed.
So, as you can see, if your manager witnessed your colleague’s sexist comments to you, they should have taken steps to put a stop to this conduct regardless of whether or not you or anyone else filed a report. Despite this truth, it is still a good idea for you to file a report on the incident. Documenting incidences of harassment and wrongful workplace conduct is vital to supporting any legal claim you may wish to bring further down the road. Formal complaints, among other forms of evidence, will be crucial to supporting your assertion that you have been the victim of workplace harassment and your employer knew or should have known that you were experiencing this type of wrongful behavior.
If you are concerned about what filing a report may do to you professionally, don’t be. New Jersey has legal protections in place to safeguard those who file reports or support investigations into workplace misconduct. Namely, the Conscientious Employee Protection Act (CEPA) is New Jersey’s whistleblower law. CEPA offers broad protections to employees who have objected to workplace actions that they had a reasonable belief were in violation of the law. More specifically, CEPA protects employees reporting misconduct from being:
- Passed over for promotion
- Subject to other adverse employment actions
If you have been the victim of inappropriate comments or other incidences of workplace misconduct, do not hesitate to reach out to the team at Castronovo & McKinney to discuss your legal options. Contact us today.