Sexual harassment in the workplace is an unnerving experience for those who have been victimized, threatened or even witness the behaviors. The legal right to work without fear of harassment or sexual discrimination is guaranteed by the laws that govern the state of New Jersey. It is illegal for a supervisor, coworker or even a client to take advantage of a working relationship for personal sexual favors or to belittle or objectify an employee who is simply trying to earn a fair wage.
So, what can you do if you feel you have been sexually harassed at work? How can you recognize the signs to tell if it is really is sexual harassment? How can you prove it in order to register a complaint to get the behaviors to stop?
What Is Sexual Harassment in the Workplace?
In the state of New Jersey, sexual harassment is defined as either repetitive commentary or behaviors that belittle, objectify, threaten, or otherwise give unwanted sexual attention based on an employee’s gender or sexuality. These comments or actions are enough to make a reasonable employee feel uncomfortable or threatened in the workplace.
When comments, advances, intentional touching or confrontations occur in a regular fashion to make the atmosphere at work uncomfortable, this is considered Hostile Work Environment Sexual Harassment. Basically, the very nature of the commentary and behaviors that you must endure on a regular basis make it difficult for you to do your job and can affect productivity.
Quid Pro Quo Sexual Harassment can have the same unnerving effect on workers, but the difference is that sexual favors are requested as a way to gain a promotion or to avoid a negative setback at work. Whether the offers for sexual conduct are explicit or implied does not matter. No supervisor, co-worker or client may make any type of offer or deal where your compliance with sexual requests is a condition of the deal.
Sexual harassment can be proven with the right kind of evidence in the form of documentation of the harassing behaviors or comments. Witness testimonies and proof of making it known that such advances were not welcome both go a long way to helping your case, too.
|How Can I Prove Sexual Harassment?|
DocumentationYour best form of proof to show that sexual harassment occurred at work is to document each and every instance of harassing behavior that you experienced or witnessed. Many times, victims will not recognize a pattern of sexual harassment until multiple events have passed. By then, details can be hazy or difficult to recall with clarity. In other cases, some individuals feel that a single remark or advance may not be enough to constitute harassment, so they don’t bother taking note of what happened.
However, if you simply take a few quick moments to write down and save a brief summary of what took place, your records can work in your favor. Even if it is the first time you see a certain person make an advance or comment, you should write down that one event. If it never happens again, no one was affected by you making a note. However, if you see similar behaviors later, you will have a prior record to build upon.
When taking notes of harassing behavior, it is important to include as much as you can remember about what took place. Include the date, time and location of the comment or behavior. Note the context – what was being spoken about prior to the harassment? Were there any other witnesses or participants in the conversation or action? Then include as much detail as you can about what exactly was said or done. If you were touched, note exactly where you were touched and for how long. If it was commentary, try to quote as precisely as possible.
All of these details can strengthen the credibility of your case and provide possible witnesses to corroborate your claims.
Witness TestimoniesChances are strong that your harasser is not only targeting you, but is also exhibiting harassing behaviors toward others in your workplace. When it comes time to register a complaint, the more people who can corroborate the allegations of harassment, the stronger the case.
Remember, the person who reports the harassment does not have to be the victim of the harassment. If a witness reported the behaviors happening to someone else, they have already offered credibility to your case. If you have documented each instance of the harassment, your documentation may shed light on other people who saw what happened and can help verify your claims.
By asking for witness testimony to prove your claims, you may discover that the harassment is far more pervasive that you realized.
Report the HarassmentThe most important step in proving harassment is that you addressed your harasser and made it absolutely clear that you did NOT enjoy the behaviors and commentary. Using an office-provided email service to send a message to the individual is great way to both let the person know that he or she made you feel uncomfortable and wish the actions to stop, but it also keeps a record for future proof that you raised your concern.
If the harassment does not cease after addressing your harasser directly, then you must register a complaint to you supervisor or HR department. If your harasser is your supervisor or works in HR, you can directly submit your claim to OSHA or the NJ PEOSH agency.
Contact an Employment Law Attorney
If you feel you have been sexually harassed at work, you need an sexual harassment lawyer on your side. Contact the offices of Castronovo & McKinney for a free consultation of your case and we can help determine the right approach for your harassment claim.