How to Prove Sexual Harassment by a New Jersey Employer
Sexual harassment has long been a serious problem in workplaces throughout the United States. Despite the #MeToo movement, enforcing laws against sexual harassment remains problematic. Often, this is because of the difficulty of proving that illegal misconduct occurred. However, meritorious cases can be won through careful and thorough gathering of evidence.
In New Jersey, the Law Against Discrimination (LAD) protects employees and independent contractors from two types of sexual harassment:
- Quid pro quo harassment — This may be a request for sexual favors in return for a promised benefit, such as a job, promotion or raise. It may also be retaliation or the threat of retaliation, such as by firing, demotion or poor job evaluation, for refusing to grant a sexual favor.
- Hostile work environment — This type of harassment consists of unwanted gender-based conduct that is severe or pervasive enough to be intimidating, hostile or offensive to a reasonable person. The conduct may include verbal, written, pictorial or physical forms of expression. A company’s owners or managers can be responsible for tolerating a hostile workplace.
Sexual harassment is illegal regardless of whether the perpetrator or victim is male or female. The LAD also prohibits retaliation against an employee who complains about it.
Success in a sexual harassment case depends in large measure on credible testimony, but taking concrete actions can lend support to the claim. If you believe you are a victim of harassment, make a detailed but private record of any occurrences, including who was involved, the actions taken, any specific words or conduct used, how you and others around you responded and whether there were any witnesses. This record can help you later if you’re required to testify or to document your allegations. You should also report the incidents to your human resources department, if your company has one, or else to higher management.
If there is physical evidence of sexual harassment, you should keep it and preserve it. This may include a suggestive card left on your desk or an email sent to you. Keeping records of any positive job evaluations you received in the past can be helpful in a quid pro quo case alleging retaliation for refusing sexual favors.
You should consult with an employment law attorney as soon as you become aware that you’re the victim of sexual harassment. An attorney can set to work on compiling the evidence you need to make a case and to start the process of putting an end to harassment and obtaining just and fair compensation for the harm done.
Kevin T. Kutyla, Esq. in Succasunna represents New Jersey employees who are victims of sexual harassment and other types of discrimination. For a confidential initial consultation, call me at 862-354-8931 or contact me online.