America is in the middle of a social reckoning. Brave women are standing up and telling their stories of sexual harassment, assault, or other abuses by men in positions of power through use of the hashtag, #MeToo. The #MeToo movement, focused primarily on sharing stories of abuse, evolved into a call for action and female empowerment aptly named #TimesUp. Although there has long been legal recourse found in our federal and state law for victims of sexual harassment in the workplace and/or victims of retaliation for reporting it, women today are being believed and vindicated on a larger scale than ever seen before. Here in New Jersey, our Law Against Discrimination (LAD) employees protects women and men alike from sexual harassment in the workplace. There are two kinds of sexual harassment: (1) quid pro quo, which is an agreement or an offer to receive a benefit (promotion, raise, continued employment, etc.) in exchange for the performance of sexual favors; or (2) a sexually hostile work environment, where, for example, a co-worker makes unwelcome and offensive sexual comments and/or advances. Lehmann v. Toys ‘R’ Us, Inc., 132 N.J. 587 (1993). Any person who aids, abets, or otherwise assists in the harassment is in violation of the LAD. N.J.S.A. 10:5-12(e).
To prove the existence of a hostile work environment under the LAD, an employee must demonstrate that the conduct in question was unwelcome, that it occurred because of his or her sex, and that a reasonable person of the same sex would consider it sufficiently severe or pervasive to alter the conditions of employment and create an intimidating, hostile, or offensive working environment. Id. However, a victim of harassment should be mindful that the LAD is not intended to be “a ‘general civility’ code” for conduct in the workplace.'” Mandel v. UBS/PaineWebber, Inc., 373 N.J. Super. 55, 73 (App. Div. 2004) certif. denied, 183 N.J. 213 (2005). “‘[D]iscourtesy or rudeness should not be confused with [protected status-based] harassment.'” Ibid.
The LAD expressly protects workers from retaliation for having reported sexual harassment of themselves or coworkers. This includes retaliation in the form of a hostile work environment, demotion, failure to promote, transfer, cut in pay or benefits, unpaid suspension, wrongful discharge, or even “constructive discharge”. A constructive discharge occurs when an employer takes no official action, but creates a work environment so hostile and unbearable that a reasonable employee would have no choice but to resign.
For generations of working women, sexual harassment, sexual misconduct, and even outright sexual assault, was their inescapable reality. For too long, women have been faced with an impossible choice: to risk retaliation for reporting sexual misconduct, or to continue working in an abusive or hostile environment. Equally, women have too often seen the indifference in how employers respond when their coworkers or friends have complained about unwelcome sexual behavior in the workplace. The utter lack of response, or even punishment of the accuser, has kept too many women silent in the face of egregious abuses of power.
Mashel Law LLC is proud to have joined with the TIME’S UP Legal Defense Fund administered by the National Woman’s Law Center for Gender Equality to provide female victims of sexual harassment with lawyers dedicated to protecting their rights. Mashel Law is committed to working with organizations such as National Woman’s Law Center for Gender Equality to change the way employers and our society at large responds to legitimate claims of sexual harassment and misconduct.
If you have been victim of sexual harassment from supervisors and/or other co-workers, or have been retaliated against for making such a claim, you may have a viable legal remedy. Call the attorneys at Mashel Law (732) 536-6161 or fill out the contact form on this page for immediate help. At Mashel Law, we are well experienced in handling discrimination and whistleblower cases, and will aggressively seek to discover the evidence required to get your claim to a jury. Mashel Law, located in Morganville, New Jersey, is dedicated to protecting the rights of employees.