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Understanding how the law protects workers from sexual harassment

While we would like to think otherwise, the unfortunate reality is that workers across New Jersey are routinely subjected to conduct on the part of their employers that could perhaps best be characterized as demeaning, dehumanizing or demoralizing.   

Compounding this all too real problem is the fact that many workers either don’t know or don’t believe that they have any manner of protection under either state or federal law. Indeed, this is often true when it comes to the omnipresent problem of sexual harassment.

It’s imperative for workers to understand, however, that this is far from the reality, especially as far as state law is concerned.

Does state law expressly prohibit sexual harassment?

The New Jersey Law Against Discrimination, or LAD, expressly prohibits sexual harassment of workers in its various forms, meaning both quid pro quo sexual harassment and hostile work environment sexual harassment.

What is quid pro quo sexual harassment?

Quid pro quo sexual harassment involves an employer conditioning continued employment, career advancement, avoidance of certain adverse employment consequences (i.e., poor evaluations) or employment benefits (i.e., promotions) — either explicitly or implicitly — on the fulfillment of sexual demands and/or ongoing toleration of sexual advances.

What is hostile work environment sexual harassment?

Hostile work environment sexual harassment involves the creation of an unlawful work environment characterized by sexually abusive and/or offensive conduct that is so severe or so pervasive that it would make a reasonable person of the affected employee’s gender believe that 1) employment conditions have become altered, and 2) the work environment has become abusive or hostile.

An example of this would be a woman submitted to sexually charged taunts or other offense conduct on a regular basis.   

We’ll continue this discussion in future posts.

In the meantime, if you have been victimized by sexual harassment in the workplace, please understand that you have do have rights and you do have options for seeking justice.

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