Experiencing sexual harassment at your workplace in New Jersey can be an emotionally and mentally distressing ordeal. The fear of potential repercussions can cast a shadow over your professional life, making it daunting to address such issues. Moreover, distinguishing between what constitutes illegal sexual harassment and what doesn’t can be a complex task. If you find yourself grappling with these challenges, the best course of action is to consult an experienced sexual harassment and discrimination attorney.
Attorneys well-versed in these matters, like those at Swartz Swidler, can assess your situation, provide candid evaluations of your legal options, and offer guidance on the steps to protect your rights. To empower yourself with knowledge and safeguard your workplace environment, it’s crucial to understand the following key information about sexual harassment.
Definition of Sexual Harassment
Sexual harassment, within the legal context, encompasses a wide range of unwelcome behaviors and actions rooted in an individual’s sex or gender. While blatant, explicit advances are often what comes to mind, it’s essential to recognize that sexual harassment extends to subtler, persistent behaviors. These may include the telling of inappropriate jokes, making improper comments about one’s appearance, or consistently overlooking an employee for promotions or salary increases based solely on their gender. If you find yourself subjected to differential treatment due to your sex or are enduring persistent and unwelcome sexual advances, it’s imperative to engage the services of an experienced sexual harassment lawyer in New Jersey.
Understand the Sexual Harassment Policy at Your Job
Chances are your company has a formal, written sexual harassment policy in place. Familiarizing yourself with this policy is of utmost importance. The policy not only provides guidelines for handling and reporting harassment but also lays the groundwork for a legal course of action.
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) requires people to satisfy their company’s internal complaint process so that employers have a chance to address situations before a claim is filed. Your company’s policy will tell you which person is designated to receive complaints, the types of evidence you will need to submit, and the steps you’ll need to follow. Make sure you adhere to the procedure, and file a complaint in writing while retaining a copy for your records.
Know That You Are Protected
Many workers hesitate to complain about sexual harassment because they worry they will be targeted further and might lose their jobs. However, your employer is forbidden from retaliating against you for complaining about harassment. Under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, retaliation against workers for complaining about harassment or discrimination is illegal. It is unlawful even if your complaint is found to be groundless as long as you have a good-faith basis for complaining. This law also protects you if you assist a co-worker with their harassment case by testifying about what you observed. If your employer retaliates against you for either filing a complaint or for participating in the investigation, you will have a separate ground to file a legal action against your employer.
What Happens After You File a Complaint?
Once you file an internal harassment complaint, your employer must investigate it. This means that the fact that you filed a complaint might become known within your company even if you received assurances that it would remain anonymous. Your employer will need to interview witnesses, speak with you, and talk to the person who harassed you. Once the investigation is complete, your employer should take steps to remedy the issue.
Even if your employer finds that sexual harassment occurred, that doesn’t necessarily mean that the person who harassed you will be terminated. If the event was not severe or conducted over a long period, your employer will likely not terminate them. However, the company might take other preventative measures to prevent further harassment, including making the harasser go through additional training, transferring them to a different area, or making sure that you and your harasser no longer work together. However, your employer shouldn’t transfer you to a less desirable shift because that could be considered retaliatory and unfair.
One-Time Incidents and Lawsuits
Unless the incident was particularly severe, a single incident is generally not enough to file a sexual harassment complaint with the EEOC. However, you should still report it internally and go through your company’s process. While it might be an isolated event now, harassment can continue unless action is taken to address it. By filing an internal complaint, you can document what happened. If it continues, you can continue building documents that demonstrate it is an ongoing problem. In some cases, reporting a single incident will also be enough for the harasser to change their behavior.
Know What to Do if Your Employer Fails to Act on Your Complaint
If your employer fails to investigate your complaint or to take corrective action to end harassment, you should consider filing a discrimination and harassment complaint with the EEOC. An experienced attorney at Swartz Swidler can guide you through the process to ensure your complaint is well-supported and likelier to succeed. The EEOC will investigate your complaint. In some cases, the EEOC will find that a complaint is merited but will return it to the complainant to pursue on their own instead of prosecuting it. If that happens, you’ll receive a right-to-sue letter. You should take this letter to your employment attorney for help with filing a complaint in court.
Filing a Lawsuit
You must complete the administrative process before you can file a discrimination and harassment lawsuit in court. Wait until you receive notice from the EEOC that you have the right to sue. If the EEOC decides to prosecute the case for you, it will file a complaint in court. If not, you should retain an experienced harassment attorney to help you with your case.
Consult an Employment Attorney
Sexual harassment lawsuits require extensive knowledge of the laws. If you find yourself experiencing inappropriate conduct in your workplace and wish to explore your legal rights and options, it’s vital to reach out to a sexual harassment lawyer in New Jersey, specifically from the law firm of Swartz Swidler. We have years of experience protecting employee rights and can explain the options you might have. Call us to request a free consultation today at (856) 685-7420.