As stories of powerful people who have allegedly sexually harassed or assaulted women consume the news cycle, some people in New Jersey and Pennsylvania might wonder where to draw the line between harmless flirting and bantering at their workplaces and sexual harassment. In the workplace, sexual harassment is illegal under both state and federal law.
Some workers and employers are uncertain what constitutes illegal behavior and what is prohibited sexual harassment. If you believe that you have been the victim of sexual harassment at work, you might want to talk to the experienced employment lawyers at Swartz Swidler to learn about your potential rights.
Flirting and banter vs. sexual harassment
Many workplaces have long been marked by harmless flirting and inappropriate jokes. This type of conduct may cross the line into illegal conduct when it is unwelcome. However, it may be difficult to know when flirting or joking is unwelcome. Under the law, people who feel harassed by flirting or inappropriate jokes must speak up. In general, courts will not find that illegal sexual harassment has occurred unless there are multiple incidents that are ongoing despite documented complaints.
While most people might find crude jokes to be uncomfortable, they are generally not considered to be illegal sexual harassment when they are not directed toward individual people at work. If you feel uncomfortable about the banter that happens at your job or because of flirting, you should tell a supervisor about your discomfort.
Workplace sexual harassment policies
There are regulations in place that help employers to establish sexual harassment policies at their workplaces. If your workplace has become a hostile working environment to such an extent that it is difficult for you to be able to perform your job duties because of ongoing sexual harassment, you must follow your employer’s complaint procedures before you can file a discrimination charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Your employer must have notice of the harassment and an opportunity to investigate your complaint. If your employer does not investigate your complaint or retaliates against you for complaining, you may have legal rights.
How Our Attorneys might help
If you have been the victim of workplace sexual harassment, an experienced employment lawyer may guide you through the steps of the internal complaint process at your job. Your complaint must be submitted in writing and follow the policies of your company. You should document all instances of harassment with the dates, times, what was said and who was present. If your employer fails to investigate your complaint or to take appropriate action, your attorney may assist you with filing a discrimination charge with the EEOC or the corresponding state agency.
Contact Swartz Swidler to learn more about your potential claim and to get help.