Sexual Harassment in the Workplace: How do New Jersey Laws Protect You?
November 30, 2017
Lía Fiol-Matta, Esq., Jennifer Vorih, Esq., and Ty Hyderally, Esq.
New Jersey employees, along with employees throughout the country, are learning daily about incidents of women and men who are speaking up about being the targets of inappropriate behavior by supervisors or others in the workplace. Now yet another famous television personality, Matt Lauer, has been fired from NBC after a complaint of sexual harassment. This follows the terminations of other top anchors in television news – Bill O’Reilly in April of this year and Charlie Rose earlier this month. Of course, these are in addition to the numerous recent complaints against celebrities and politicians for sexual misconduct, including sexual harassment and assault. While we’ve been hearing about many sexual harassers who are rich and famous, sexual harassment can occur in any workplace, and it is important for all New Jersey employees to know their rights in this area. New Jersey employees are protected by New Jersey and federal employment laws against gender discrimination and sexual harassment.
Sexual harassment in the workplace comes in many forms. You may be subjected to sexually suggestive staring, jokes, or gestures, or you may receive sexually explicit or intrusive questions, propositions, touching, teasing or other unwanted behaviors. Maybe you’ve been told you’ll get that job, promotion, assignment or other job benefit you’re seeking only if you give certain sexual favors in return, or if you agree to go out with a supervisor or manager. It might be that your workplace is hostile, making you feel uncomfortable due to sexually suggestive or offensive material being displayed at your workplace or placed in your work area or belongings. It is important to know that these behaviors and situations are unlawful and you may take action to stop them.
The New Jersey Law against Discrimination (LAD) protects New Jersey employees from sexual harassment and discrimination, regardless of their gender or the gender of the person engaging in the unlawful behavior. In other words, sexual harassment is against the law, whether it comes from a man or a woman, or is done to a woman or a man. Your employer must not sexually harass you or any other employees and your employer must make sure that no sexual harassment takes place in your workplace – either by a supervisor, your coworkers, or customers. The law protects you no matter if you are a full-time, part-time, permanent or casual. Your employer has a duty to ensure that your workplace is free from sexual discrimination and harassment. The LAD also prohibits employers from retaliating against New Jersey employees who complain about such discrimination.
In addition, the New Jersey Conscientious Employee Protection Act (CEPA) protects New Jersey employees from adverse actions or retaliation for disclosing or reporting an activity or a practice of an employer, if the employee reasonably believes the activity or practice – such as sexual harassment — is against the law. As a New Jersey employee, you have the right to work in an environment that is free from sexual harassment. New Jersey employees also have the right to report violations of the LAD they reasonably believe their employer is engaging in, without fearing that they will be terminated or otherwise retaliated against as a result.
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