Defining Sexual Harassment

At Castronovo & McKinney, LLC, we are dedicated to helping victims of gender discrimination and sexual harassment fight back. Once you become our client, you can rest assured that we will protect your employment rights. Contact our office today for a consultation.

Sexual harassment is considered an unlawful form of sex-based discrimination under federal and state law. Harassment can occur in several ways, but there are generally two types – quid pro quo and a hostile work environment:

  • Quid pro quo is a Latin term that means “this for that.” As the name implies, this type of harassment occurs when a supervisor or another authority figure makes sexual demands in exchange for a job offer, promotion, or another benefit of employment. Quid pro quo harassment also occurs when someone is reprimanded, demoted, or fired for rejecting the sexual advances of a superior.
  • A hostile work environment occurs when a pattern of unwelcome conduct, comments, or displays by supervisors, coworkers, or third parties (e.g vendors, clients, or customers) is severe or pervasive enough to create an abusive environment and interferes with the victim’s ability to perform their job.

Examples of sexual harassment in the workplace include:

  • A hiring manager making a job offer dependent on agreeing to sexual demands
  • A supervisor requesting sexual favors from a staff member
  • Anyone making offensive comments of a sexual nature at work
  • Offensive jokes about sexual acts or sexual orientation

Regardless of how it occurs, sexual harassment in the workplace is offensive and illegal. The best way to fight back is to have an experienced New Jersey sexual harassment attorney on your side. At Castronovo & McKinney, we have extensive experience negotiating and litigating sexual harassment claims and will help you stand up for your employment rights.

Woman working at desk with coworkers harassing her in the background.

Defining Gender Discrimination

Gender discrimination occurs when a job applicant or employee experiences discrimination because of their gender. Federal and state laws prohibit employers from making employment decisions (e.g. hiring, compensating, firing) based on gender and/or other protected characteristics.

This form of discrimination involves any form of sex-based discrimination but differs from sexual harassment in that gender discrimination mainly applies to making employment decisions based on a protected characteristic. By contrast, sexual harassment involves mistreating an employee or job applicant to the point of an offensive, abusive or hostile work environment. At the same time, an employee who refuses a sexual advance or complains about harassment may also face adverse employment action.

Gender discrimination in the workplace is illegal because it creates inequities regarding hiring, compensation, working conditions, promotions, fringe benefits, paid time off and sick leave, layoffs, recalls, demotions, and termination. However, identifying discrimination is challenging because employers know how to disguise their discriminatory and illegal motives. For this reason, you need an experienced gender discrimination lawyer on your side.

Other Forms of Discrimination Based on Sex and Gender

Notably, gender discrimination is not limited to discrimination based on sex (male and female) but also on sexual orientation and gender identity. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2020 that federal civil rights law protects gay, lesbian, and transgender employees from discrimination in the workplace. In short, it is illegal for employers to discriminate against job applicants or employees because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.

If you believe you have suffered discrimination because of your gender, sexual orientation, or gender identity, you need an experienced employment discrimination attorney in your corner. That’s where Castronovo & McKinney comes in. We will handle your claim with the personal attention it deserves and work to get you just compensation.

Federal and New Jersey State Laws that Protect Victims

Victims of gender discrimination and sexual harassment in the workplace are protected by federal and state laws, including:

  • Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII)
  • Equal Pay Act of 1963
  • New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (NJLAD)

Title VII

This federal law, a product of the civil rights movement, prohibits employment discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex (gender), and national origin. Under this law, employers cannot make employment decisions based on protected characteristics, including gender, sexual orientation, and gender identity. However, Title VII only covers employers with 15 or more employees.

The Equal Pay Act (EPA)

The goal of the EPA is to eliminate gender-based pay discrimination and requires that women receive the same pay as men for doing the same work. The law prohibits discrimination in all forms of compensation – salary, bonuses, vacation, and holiday pay; however, it allows for pay differentials when individuals are evaluated based on criteria such as seniority, production levels, and merit. The EPA permits victims of gender-based pay discrimination to file claims under Title VII and prohibits employers from retaliating against employees who take action against pay discrimination.


This state law makes it illegal for all employers, regardless of the number of employees, to discriminate against an employee or job applicant based on:

Legal documents for victim's rights on table

Racial discrimination comes in a variety of forms, some subtle, others more obvious. Regardless, employers cannot make employment decisions or take adverse employment actions against an employee based on race.

Learn More About Racial Discrimination
Religious Creed

Religious freedom applies not only to established faith-based systems like Judaism, Christianity, or Islam but also to any sincerely held ethical or personal belief.

Learn More About Religious Creed

Color discrimination isn’t just between people who could be considered different races. It can also happen among people who were born in the same country or belong to the same race.

National Origin & Nationality

Employers may also have policies that apply to everyone but discriminate against individuals based on their national origin. These policies must be necessary for the safe, efficient operation of the business to be permissible.

Learn More About National Origin Discrimination
Physical or Mental Disability

Discrimination on the basis of mental or physical disability in the workplace is prohibited by federal and New Jersey law. The laws cover both mental and physical disability discrimination.

Learn More About Mental & Physical Disability Discrimination

Both federal and state laws prohibit employment discrimination on the basis of age. It is illegal for employers with at least 20 employees to discriminate against any employee or job applicant who is 40 years of age or older.

Learn More About Age Discrimination

Gender identity discrimination violates federal law and the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination. Discrimination based on gender identity can be overt or subtle.

Learn More About Gender Identity Discrimination
Sexual Orientation

Discrimination in the workplace based on sexual orientation is illegal under the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (NJLAD). You can pursue a claim of sexual orientation discrimination through the New Jersey Division on Civil Rights or through a judicial pathway

Learn More About Sexual Orientation Discrimination
Ancestry & Genetic Information

In 2008, the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA) was signed into law, protecting individuals from discrimination based on genetic information by health insurance companies and employers.

Marital Status

Whether you are single, married, divorced, separated, or in a same-sex marriage, when an employer treats you differently because of your marital status, you are protected under both federal and state laws.

Learn More About Marital Status Discrimination
Pregnancy Discrimination

Pregnancy discrimination violates both federal and state laws. This form of discrimination occurs when an employer treats a female employee or candidate unfairly because of her pregnancy, childbirth, or pregnancy-related condition.

Learn More About Pregnancy Discrimination
Military Service

The Uniformed Services Emplooyment and Reemployment Rights Act of 1994 (USERRA) prohibits employers from firing, refusing to hire, or denying employment benefits to employees because of their employment status.

Unlike Title VII, the NJLAD does not require you to pursue an administrative complaint before filing an employment discrimination lawsuit. At Castronovo & McKinney, we have successfully represented clients in proceedings before the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the New Jersey Division on Civil Rights, and in state and federal court. We have a proven history of achieving positive outcomes in and out of the courtroom.

What Does Sexual Harassment and Gender Discrimination Look Like?

Sexual harassment involves more than an offhand comment or offensive joke. However, a single incident could be severe enough to constitute harassment. Examples include:

  • Unlawful touching
  • Unwanted physical contact
  • Unwelcome sexual advances
  • Sending romantic gifts
  • Sending unwanted sexually explicit photos, emails, or text messages
  • Gossiping about an employee’s sex life
  • Making inappropriate sexual comments on a video call
  • Making offensive comments about a person’s gender identity
Illustration of hand grabbing a running woman, exemplifying sexual harassment

In addition, gender discrimination can be overt or subtle and may involve:

  • Refusing to hire women based on their gender
  • Exclusively promoting men based on their gender
  • Terminating an employee because of their sexual orientation
  • Not permitting an employee to greet customers because of their gender identity

Employees in New Jersey continue to face discrimination and harassment, despite federal and state equal employment opportunity laws that prohibit such misconduct. The best way to protect your rights is to have the powerful representation our firm provides. We have the skills and determination to go the distance and will do everything in our power to achieve the best possible outcome for your case.

Senior management discriminating against female job candidate

What to Do If You Are a Victim of Sexual
Harassment and Gender Discrimination

There is a way to protect yourself if you are experiencing discrimination or harassment at work. For example, if you believe you were denied a promotion because of your gender, you can report the matter to human resources to address your concerns. While your complaint may not get resolved, reporting to HR will put your employer on notice and help to support a gender discrimination claim if you decide to take legal action.

There are also other ways to fight back against sexual harassment in the workplace. The first step is to inform the harasser that their conduct is offensive and must stop. Also, you should tell your supervisor (or another manager if your supervisor is the harasser) or human resources about the harassment.

Under federal and state law, an employer can be held strictly liable for a supervisor’s misconduct. Also, an employer that knows or should have reasonably known about harassment by coworkers or third parties may be negligent. Because proving gender discrimination or sexual harassment is challenging, consulting an experienced employment lawyer is essential.

My Employer Has Retaliated Against Me. What Steps Should I Take?

Employees who experience gender discrimination or sexual harassment may be reluctant to come forward because they fear the consequences and potential damage to their reputation. Remember: your employer cannot legally retaliate against you for complaining about discrimination or harassment or for exercising your legal rights. Unlawful retaliation occurs when an employer takes an adverse employment action against an employee, such as:

  • Firing or termination
  • Demotion or reassignment of duties
  • Poor work evaluations
  • Pay cut

For example, an employee with a history of positive employment reviews who gets reprimanded for poor performance after complaining about sexual harassment may be the victim of retaliation. While this is an obvious sign, subtle forms of retaliation also occur, such as supervisors behaving in a hostile or insulting manner towards an employee who has complained about gender discrimination.

In any event, Title VII and the NJLAD protect you against retaliation for complaining to your employer or the appropriate state or federal agency about discrimination or harassment. In addition to having grounds for a discrimination or harassment lawsuit, you may also have a legal basis for an employment retaliation claim. Because employers have the upper hand when making employment decisions, you need an attorney who can level the playing field and protect your rights.

Why Choose Castronovo & McKinney

If you have experienced gender discrimination or sexual harassment in the workplace, you may be frightened, angry, and not know where to turn. Now is the time to call Castronovo & McKinney. When you consult with us, we will listen to your concerns, explain your rights, and explore your legal options. Trust our legal team to handle all the details of your claim, including:

  • Conducting an extensive investigation
  • Interviewing coworkers, supervisors, and HR personnel who can corroborate your claim
  • Obtaining and reviewing a copy of your personnel file and annual reviews
  • Investigating similar incidents of misconduct by your employer
  • Taking over communications with your employer and their attorneys
  • Negotiating a fair and reasonable settlement
Happy clients, shaking hands with discrimination lawyer

While we prefer to reach negotiated settlements, we are always prepared to litigate. Depending on the circumstances, you may be awarded damages such as:

  • Back pay
  • Front pay
  • Lost bonuses/paid time off
  • The value of lost employment benefits (health, retirement)
  • Reputational damage
  • Pain and suffering
  • Emotional distress

You may be entitled to back and front pay after being terminated for complaining about discrimination and harassment. In addition, you may be reinstated to your position or promoted if practicable. Finally, the court may order your employer to take corrective action, such as revising policies and procedures and training staff about discrimination and harassment.

You may be reluctant to take legal action against your employer, but it is the best way to protect your employment rights. Trust our gender discrimination and sexual harassment attorneys to provide compassionate, efficient representation and guide you through the process. Because you can also recover attorney’s fees, you will have no out-of-pocket legal costs and nothing to lose.

Discrimination legal team meeting in office.

Contact Our New Jersey Sexual Harassment
and Gender Discrimination Attorney Today

At Castronovo & McKinney, we believe that all employees have a right to a work environment free from gender discrimination and sexual harassment. We have a well-earned reputation as dedicated advocates of aggrieved employees who work to hold employers accountable. Once you become our client, you will be well-equipped to stand up for your employment rights. The sooner you contact our office, the sooner we can start working on your claim.

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