Sexual harassment is typically associated with illegal sex-based conduct, such as unwelcome sexual advances or unlawful touching, but unwanted attention may also constitute harassment. What may seem like a joke to one person may create a hostile work environment for another. If unwanted attention harassment has impacted your work life, you need an experienced sexual harassment attorney at your side.
At Castronovo & McKinney, our practice is dedicated to helping workers throughout New Jersey fight back against harassment in all its forms. When you consult with us, we will help you understand the line between unwanted attention and harassment, explore all your options, and work to protect your employment rights. Contact our Morristown or Manhattan office today to get started.
When Unwanted Attention Becomes Sexual Harassment
It is important to understand what situations are considered harassment and to know the difference between unwanted attention and harassment. An isolated incident or an offhand remark may not rise to the level of harassment unless it is severe enough to cause damages. For an action or behavior to be deemed harassment, it must be persistent and severe enough to interfere with your job performance or create a hostile work environment.
According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), unwanted attention harassment occurs when behavior is subjectively unwelcome and objectively severe and pervasive enough to make a reasonable person see the workplace environment as hostile or abusive. Examples of unwanted attention that may be deemed harassment include:
- Repeated and unwanted communication via phone, email, text, or social media
- Repeatedly asking someone out on a date when the person has already said no
- Making targeted and repeated jokes that are offensive in nature
- Sending or leaving unwanted gifts
- Commenting on someone’s physical appearance or abilities
- Excluding someone from discussions and decisions
- Unwanted touching of any kind — even seemingly innocent touching like putting an arm around one’s shoulder or a pat on the back
Moreover, the EEOC considers harassment to be an unlawful form of discrimination under federal equal employment opportunity laws, including Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Americans with Disabilities Act, and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act. This means that unwanted attention harassment is not limited to sex-based conduct but also includes harassment based on protected characteristics such as:
- National origin
- Age (40 or older)
- Sexual orientation
- Gender identity/expression
- Genetic information
In addition to federal law, workers in New Jersey have legal protection under the Law Against Discrimination, which covers all employers and allows harassment victims to file a lawsuit without filing an administrative complaint first. In any event, unwanted attention harassment is unlawful if it is a condition of employment or creates an intimidating, hostile, or offensive work environment to a reasonable person.
Avoiding Unwanted Attention at Work
If an employer, manager, coworker, or customer’s unwanted attention is making you uncomfortable, there are steps you can take to protect yourself. First, inform that person his or her attention is unwanted, offensive, and needs to stop. It is also important to document the incidents, including dates, times, and comments.
You should also notify your supervisor or human resources personnel about unwanted attention harassment because an employer that knows or reasonably should have known about harassment can be held liable. It is important to know that your employer cannot retaliate against you for complaining about sexual harassment and can be held liable for taking adverse employment action against you, such as termination, demotion, or reassignment.
If your employer fails to stop the harassment, our employment lawyers can help. When you become our client, we will:
- Conduct an investigation
- Interview witnesses and collect evidence (emails, personnel records)\
- Handle all communications with your employer and their attorneys
- Negotiate a fair and reasonable settlement
- File a sexual harassment lawsuit if necessary
While many unwanted attention harassment claims can be resolved outside of court, we are always ready to litigate to achieve the best possible outcome. Although no two cases are the same, you may be able to recover damages such as lost wages and benefits, compensatory and liquidated damages, as well as attorneys’ fees ad costs.
Representing Unwanted Attention Harassment Victims in New Jersey
If you’ve experienced unwanted attention harassment in the workplace, you may not know what to do about it. The best way to protect your rights is to work with the experienced employment lawyers at Castronovo & McKinney. We have a proven history of achieving positive outcomes through negotiation and litigation and will fight to protect your rights in and out of the courtroom. Contact our office today to schedule a consultation.