Sexual Harassment Law in New Jersey
A particularly nasty and damaging form of discrimination is sexual harassment. Employees have the right to be treated and evaluated in the workplace as employees, not as sex objects. At Lawrence & Gerges, we are passionate about combatting sexual harassment in the workplace and are among the state’s leading sexual harassment law firms. In the 2002 New Jersey Supreme Court case of Gaines v. Bellino, 173 N.J. 301 (N.J. 2002), Mark represented a female corrections officer who had been the victim of unwelcome sexual harassment by her Captain. Mark successfully argued to the Supreme Court that employers had a duty to do more to protect employees from sexual harassment than simply having a written policy in their handbook. The Supreme Court ruled that in order to avoid liability, employers had to demonstrate an unequivocal commitment to preventing harassment from the top, including offering mandatory sexual harassment for supervisors. Unfortunately, despite the decision, too many employers still turn a blind eye to sexual harassment in the workplace.
There are two types of sexual harassment prohibited by the law, quid pro quo harassment and sexually hostile environment harassment.
An employer can be liable for failing to prevent the harassment if it does not have an effective anti-harassment policy. An employer may also be liable for negligence by not taking sufficient steps to end harassment. If an employer knows or should know that one employee is sexually harassing another, the employer must take “effective” measures to end it. This may be as simple as warning the harasser that further harassment will not be tolerated or as drastic as permanently removing the harasser from the victim’s work environment. If the harassment continues, it is the jury’s job to decide whether the employer is liable for negligence in failing to end the harassment.
Beyond negligence, the other way an employer may be found liable for sexual harassment by one of its employees is if it is shown that the employer gave the harasser authority to control the victim’s work environment, and the harasser used that authority to make the victim’s work environment hostile. For example, in the New Jersey Supreme Court case of Gaines v. Bellino, Mark represented a female corrections officer was harassed by her Captain. The Court found that the County could be held responsible because they gave the Captain the authority to control the officer’s work environment which gave him the opportunity to make her environment sexually hostile.
How We Can Help. Proving a sexual harassment claim can be tough. At Lawrence & Gerges, we are trial lawyers with a lot of experience with sexual harassment cases. If you are experiencing sexual harassment in the workplace, call us for a free consultation where we can discuss your options. We can help you force your employer to take appropriate action to end the harassment, or, if the harassment continues we have the trial skills and experience to take your employer to court in a lawsuit for money damages for emotional distress, attorney’s fees, and even punitive damages.
As always, if we believe you have a strong enough case, we will represent you on a contingent basis where you pay no money up front, and we only get paid if and when we recover money for you.