NJ Sexual Harassment Law | Legal Update

By Thomas McKinney

Everyone is entitled to a workplace free of sexually inappropriate behavior, and NJ Sexual Harassment Law protects against sexual harassment in the workplace. If you have been sexually harassed on the job, your employer is required to fix the situation and prohibited from retaliating against you for making a complaint. In many cases, you may be entitled to compensation for any financial losses or emotional injuries you suffered as a result of the harassment.

Sexual harassment can take different forms. Hostile work environment sexual harassment is when you are subjected to unlawful sexual conduct at work because of your gender. Under New Jersey law, this conduct is illegal if it is severe and pervasive enough to make a reasonable person believe that the conditions of employment have been altered and the workplace has become hostile and abusive. Examples of behavior that can create a sexually hostile work environment include touching and grabbing, displaying pornographic pictures, and making persistent sexual remarks, jokes, comments, or propositions. It can also include conduct that is not explicitly sexual in nature if the reason for the conduct is your gender. While not all sexual innuendos, jokes, or acts rise to the level of a hostile work environment, a significant number of these acts can support a hostile work environment claim.

In addition, the law protects against quid pro quo sexual harassment, which involves a demand or request for sexual favors in exchange for certain employment benefits. Quid pro quo sexual harassment can be explicit (for example, your boss says he will fire you if you do not have sex with him or her), or more subtle (for example, your supervisor implies that you will not get a raise if you do not go on a date with him or her). Quid pro quo sexual harassment is not limited to your direct employer. New Jersey law also protects you from being sexually harassed by an employee of a company that does business with your employer (for example, an employee of your company’s business partner tries to extort sexual favors as a condition of continuing to do business with your company). See J.T.’s Tire Service, Inc. v. United Rentals North America, Inc., 411 N.J. Super. 236 (App. Div. 2010).

Sexual harassment is prohibited in all jobs and occupations. New Jersey courts recently upheld a sexual harassment claim by an employee of a company that sold pornography and sex toys, recognizing that people who work in sexually charged atmospheres or industries are still protected from being sexually harassed on the job. See Longo v. Pleasure Productions, Inc., 2011 WL 3557518 (App. Div. Aug. 15, 2011). In addition, the gender and sexual orientation of your harasser is irrelevant to whether you have been sexually harassed.

Depending on whether the harasser is your supervisor, whether you suffered any adverse employment actions (such as demotion or termination), and whether your employer has an effective and well-publicized anti-harassment policy, you may or may not be required to report sexual harassment to your employer before your employer can be held liable for a hostile work environment.

If you have any questions regarding NJ Sexual Harassment Law, please contact our New Jersey Employment Lawyers.

Dated: January 11, 2012 – Megan Porio – Castronovo & McKinney

About the Author
Tom McKinney is an experienced NJ Employment Lawyer in all major areas of labor and employment law, including discrimination, harassment, overtime violations, wage and hour claims, sexual harassment, wrongful discharge, Title VII, ADA, ADEA, FMLA, LAD, FLSA, and all other employment law claims. Tom is admitted to practice in the States of New Jersey and New York, United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York, Southern District of New York, District of New Jersey, and United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit. Prior to forming the firm, Tom practiced at Gibbons P.C. in Newark, NJ. If you have any questions regarding this article, contact Tom here today.