Attorneys Robert W. Smith and Christopher J. Eibeler

Hostile Work Environment

When Workplace Harassment Happens - Our New Jersey Employment Lawyers Can Help

Are you being subjected to sexual harassment or other form of unwelcomed harassment at the workplace? Have you complained to your supervisors about being sexually harassed at work, and they refuse to do anything to help and stop the illegal conduct? If your answer to either of these questions is yes, you may be working in a hostile work environment in violation of the state and federal law. Our New Jersey sexual harassment attorneys have extensive experience in litigating hostile work environment claims and are available to advice you or your legal rights.

New Jersey Law Protects Employees from a Hostile Work Environment

The New Jersey Law Against Discrimination makes it illegal for employers to discriminate against employees on the basis of race, national origin, age, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, pregnancy and other protected characteristics. Harassing comments or other unwelcomed conduct directed at an employee at work because of his or her protected trait can constitute unlawful harassment and discrimination. However, not every harassing or inappropriate comment directed at an employee at work constitutes unlawful harassment or the creation of an actionable hostile work environment. In determining whether an employee has been subjected to sexual harassment or other form of hostile work environment, our Courts will review the totality of the circumstances to determine whether the harassing conduct violates the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination.

Hostile Work Environment An employer who has knowledge or should have knowledge of the existence of a hostile work environment is obligated to stop the harassment and remediate the unlawful working conditions. The complained of harassment must be based upon a protected trait such as sex, sexual orientation, disability, race or national origin. When an employer fails to take effective measures to stop the illegal harassment that it knows or should know of, New Jersey law considers that the employer has joined the harasser in making the working environment hostile and sending the harassed employee the message that the harassment is acceptable. In enacting the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination our legislature intended to eradicate the cancer of discrimination for workplaces in New Jersey.

Employers are obligated to maintain effective anti-harassment and anti-discrimination policies that prevent unlawful harassment and discrimination at the workplace and stop and remediate it when it happens. An effective anti-harassment and anti-discrimination policy must include an unequivocal commitment from the employer that it does not tolerate any form of harassment of discrimination. This unequivocal commitment must be shown in actions and not just in the words of a paper anti-harassment or anti-discrimination policy. The policy should define the types of conduct that is prohibited and that should confirm that everyone in the organization has a role in assuring the work environment is free of discrimination and harassment. The policy must require that supervisors report any complaint or concern of discrimination or harassment to human resources or other designated person who is responsible for investigating claims of discrimination and harassment. An employer must conduct a prompt, thorough and fair investigation into claims of harassment or discrimination and take meaningful action to assure it will not happen again.

In order to establish a claim based upon a hostile work environment under the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination, an employee must prove that the complained-of harassment:

  1. would not have occurred but for the employee's protected characteristic (i.e., sex, sexual orientation, gender, race);
  2. the harassment was severe or pervasive enough to make;
  3. a reasonable person of the same protected characteristic believe that;
  4. the conditions of employment have been altered and the working environment is hostile or abusive.

The severe or pervasive test adopted by New Jersey courts to determine whether the employee has been subjected to an unlawful hostile work environment can include a single incident or repeated conduct. While there is no magic number of harassing events or incidents to determine whether the work environment has become unlawful, the complained of conduct must be severe or pervasive enough for a reasonable person of the same protected class to believe the work environment has been hostile and abusive.

New Jersey Courts have recognized that a single utterance of a racial epithet can, under some circumstances, create a hostile work environment. Racial epithets are especially egregious and can engender a severe impact on the victim and the entire workplace. The experience of being called a racial slur at work is instantaneous and can cause irreparable damage. New Jersey hostile work environment law recognizes this reality by allowing victims of harassment from pursuing claims against employers who allow this type of conduct from occurring at the workplace.

Similarly, one instance of sexual harassment, proposition or assault can give rise to a hostile work environment under the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination if it is severe enough under the totality of circumstances. An employee in New Jersey does not have to wait until she is subjected to repeated acts of sexual harassment or unwelcomed sexual propositioning in order for there to be a violation of the law. Nor does an employee have to sustain a tangible adverse employment action (e.g. termination, demotion, disciplinary action) because of the sexual harassment in order for her legal rights to have been violated.

If you being subjected to harassment at the workplace and believe you are working in a hostile work environment, it is imperative that you speak to a skilled sexual harassment lawyer to review the specific circumstances of your workplace legal issue. If you would like to speak to one of our New Jersey hostile work environment lawyers, please feel free to contact us to discuss the specific facts of your workplace situation.

DISCLAIMER: The information you obtain at this site is not, nor is it intended to be, legal advice. You should consult an attorney for individual advice regarding your own situation.
Client Reviews
★★★★★
We had a wrongful termination issue combined with a denial of unemployment insurance. Chris Eibeler was our primary attorney. His partner Bob Smith also consulted and gave us good advice. They were both so kind, caring, and professional. They guided us though a very tough time and a positive outcome versus a prior employer. They were also able to reverse our denial of unemployment insurance. I cannot recommend Smith and Eibeler highly enough. The entire staff is very professional, personable, and caring. Tom Wilson
★★★★★
I went to Smith Eibeler LLC for a last minute unemployment matter. Chris, Diane and his staff were very professional and easy to talk to. They provided knowledgeable insight and also kept me in the loop with the what was happening. I would not hesitate to go to him again. John Jung
★★★★★
Chris Eibeler (and the whole team) is very knowledgeable in all aspects of employment/unemployment here in NJ. They break down the most difficult aspects of the law, which allows you to conceptualize and better understand the complexities of the NJ Labor & Employment system. Smith Eibeler should be your first call regarding any Employment, workforce, or Labor questions here in New Jersey. I highly recommend them. Brian Allen
★★★★★
I approached Chris Eibeler regarding an unemployment case in early 2016. Him and his staff are some of the most professional people I have ever dealt with. The process took a while, but his approach to hard questioning helped me win my case. He knows how to get the job done and I am glad I went to him. I would recommend him to anyone in the future who asks for a lawyer. Thank you Chris! Tim F.
★★★★★
I highly recommend the office of Smith Eibeler for employment related issues, particularly anything related to restrictive covenants or post-employment contracts. I found Smith Eibeler via the web and cannot believe how fortunate I am to have found them. My case was handled by Bob Smith who represented me in a potential lawsuit by my former employer for violation of a post-employment contract (not a restrictive covenant per se). Bob was professional, friendly, understanding, and above all extremely helpful. Bob helped me avoid a lawsuit and was extremely knowledgeable in this field. I was thoroughly impressed with his prowess. Hopefully I will never have a legal issue related to employment again, but if I do, I will not hesitate to retain Smith Eibeler again! Gavin Tully