workplace discrimination

Assault and sexual harassment in the workplace are illegal, but understanding the difference is crucial. While both acts involve unwanted behaviors that can occur in the workplace, they differ in nature, legal implications, and victims’ rights. 

As a leading New Jersey employment law firm, Castronovo & McKinney, LLC is committed to protecting victims of workplace harassment and assault and holding responsible parties accountable. If you have experienced a hostile work environment or assault on the job, call us now to learn how we can help. 

Understanding Sexual Harassment in the Workplace

Sexual harassment encompasses a broad range of unwelcome actions, advances, or requests of a sexual nature that create a hostile or intimidating work environment. These actions include:

  • Unwelcome sexual comments
  • Jokes
  • Gestures
  • Unlawful touching
  • Offensive displays 

Sexual harassment can be perpetrated by a coworker, supervisor, client, or anyone present in the workplace. Notably, a single incident can constitute sexual harassment if it creates a hostile work environment.

Federal and New Jersey Laws Prohibiting Sexual Harassment

Both federal and New Jersey laws protect workers against discrimination and harassment. At the federal level, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits sexual harassment in workplaces with 15 or more employees. This law applies to private-sector employers, state and local governments, and educational institutions.

The New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (NJLAD) prohibits sexual harassment and covers private and public sector employees. The NJLAD provides broader protections than federal law and covers most employers. Under state law, sexual harassment can manifest in various forms, such as:

  • Quid pro quo harassment which occurs when an employer makes explicit or implicit sexual demands from an employee in exchange for job benefits, promotions, or favorable treatment.
  • Hostile work environment harassment which arises when an employee is subjected to persistent and unwelcome sexual conduct, comments, or displays that create an intimidating, abusive, or hostile environment, making it difficult to perform their job duties.

Employers are legally obligated to take reasonable measures to prevent and address sexual harassment in the workplace. This includes:

  • Implementing policies, procedures, and training programs aimed to educate employees about workplace harassment and their rights
  • Establishing reporting mechanisms
  • Fostering a work culture that promotes respect and equality 

By taking proactive steps, employers can create a safer and more inclusive work environment, ensuring the well-being and productivity of their employees.

How Assault and Sexual Harassment Differ

Assault and sexual harassment differ in several key aspects. Both involve unwelcome behaviors in the workplace. However, assault involves physical actions that cause a reasonable fear of harm. In contrast, sexual harassment encompasses a broader range of unwelcome sexual advances, comments, or conduct that create a hostile work environment. 

In addition, assault typically involves direct physical contact or threats of violence, while sexual harassment can include non-physical behaviors such as verbal harassment, inappropriate jokes, or displaying explicit materials. 

While assault can be a component of sexual harassment, assault only constitutes harassment when the underlying motivation is sexual or based on gender, sexual orientation, or gender identity. Notably, assault is also a criminal offense, and victims can ask the court for a restraining order to protect them from the offender. 

When Does Assault Become Sexual Harassment?

While assault and sexual harassment differ, they dovetail when unwanted physical contact or threats are sexually motivated or based on gender. If the assault is sexual or targeted due to an individual’s gender, it may also constitute sexual harassment. 

Suppose a supervisor forcibly kisses an employee without their consent. The assault becomes a form of sexual harassment. Whether you have experienced harassment or assault, or both, you need an experienced New Jersey employment lawyer to protect your rights and well-being.

How Castronovo & McKinney Can Help

If you have experienced sexual harassment or assault in the workplace, our knowledgeable sexual harassment attorneys will provide informed representation and emotional support.

You can depend on us to guide you through the legal process and handle all the details. Our attorneys will: 

  • Investigate the alleged assault or harassment
  • Identify and interview witnesses
  • Subpoena employment records 
  • Negotiate with your employer and opposing counsel

Above all, we will fight for the compensation and justice you deserve and take your case to trial if necessary. Rest assured, we will protect your rights in and out of the courtroom.

Talk To An Experienced New Jersey Workplace Harassment and Assault Attorney Today

If you or someone you know has been a victim of sexual harassment or assault in the workplace, turn to Castronovo & McKinney. Our team of skilled sexual harassment attorneys is dedicated to fighting for your rights and creating safer work environments for all New Jersey employees. Contact us today for a confidential consultation.