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Attorneys Robert W. Smith and Christopher J. Eibeler

What is Unlawful Workplace Sexual Harassment?

What is Unlawful Workplace Sexual Harassment?Sexually harassing conduct is unlawful when it is severe and pervasive enough to make a reasonable woman or man believe that conditions of employment have been altered and that the work environment has become hostile. Whether the sexual harassment is severe or pervasive enough to meet this legal standard is fact-specific to all the circumstances of the sexual harassment and the work environment. Some court cases interpreting New Jersey sexual harassment law have stated that one comment or other incident of sexual harassment can be enough to support a claim of sexual harassment if it is severe enough to alter the work conditions of the employee.

Sexual harassment comes in many different forms. It can be verbal or non-verbal. It can be subtle or overt. It can include physical touching. Examples of sexual harassment include any of the following:

  • Unwelcomed sexual contact;
  • Unwanted sexual advances;
  • Leering or ogling;
  • Sexual propositioning;
  • Display of sexually offensive materials;
  • Belittling remarks to a class of persons;
  • Comments or jokes of sexual nature;
  • Comments about an individual’s body;
  • Berating statements to a class of persons;

Not all personally offensive conduct at the workplace is actionable sexual harassment. New Jersey sexual harassment laws have both an objective and subjective test to determine whether the sexually harassing conduct is actionable under the law. For example, the sexual harassment must be unwelcomed by the person who is being sexually harassed. Moreover, the sexual harassment conduct must be severe or pervasive enough for a reasonable woman or man to believe the conditions of employment have been altered and the work environment become hostile.

Employers should promptly, thorough and completely investigate all good faith and reasonable complaints of sexual harassment. An investigation can be done by an employee of the employer or by an outside investigator such as a lawyer or human resource consultant. Appropriate disciplinary action should be taken against any employee or other person affiliated with the employer and such disciplinary action must stop the sexually harassing conduct from ever occurring again. This can include termination of the perpetrator or other action that will prevent any further sexual harassment. Employers are also strictly prohibited from taking adverse employment action against any person who makes a good faith complaint of sexual harassment or persons who participate in any complaint investigation.

Employers who permit employees to work in a hostile work environment can be held responsible for the sexual harassment. Employers must have effective anti-discrimination policies in place, that includes promptly, thorough and completely investigating all good faith complaints of sexual harassment. The investigation must stop the sexual harassment immediately and prevent any further sexual harassment from occurring in the future.

Whether an incident or series of incidents constitutes unlawful sexual harassment is dependent on many actors. It is always advisable for an employee who believes he or she may be the victim of sexual harassment to immediately contact an employment lawyer who can analyze the relevant facts and provide advice and counsel concerning their legal options and obligations in an employer’s investigation of any complaint.

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
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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