It is not unusual for professionals in the US to log 50 or more hours at work each week. When that many of your waking hours each week take place at the office, you need it to be a welcoming, safe place. However, when you are the target of sexual harassment, it can be unbearable.
While someone at work might be making you feel uncomfortable, you might not be sure if the behavior is considered sexual harassment. Here, we review some typical examples of workplace sexual harassment to help you determine if a co-worker or superior is breaking the laws and violating your rights.
Types of Sexual Harassment in New Jersey Workplaces
Clearly, a supervisor who threatens to fire you if you don’t grant sexual favors is breaking the law. Likewise, a workplace that allows employees to engage in lewd and offensive conversations in the office or break room is also guilty of sexual harassment. These examples illustrate the two categories of sexual harassment:
- Quid pro quo. This type of sexual harassment occurs when someone expects a sexual favor in exchange for something else—perhaps a promotion, raise, or continued employment.
- Hostile work environment. The second example above shows one way a workplace can become hostile to certain employees. If even one employee feels threatened or uncomfortable by the behavior of others and the behavior is tolerated by management, that person could have a sexual harassment claim.
If you think you have experienced either type of harassment at work, you might want to talk to an employment lawyer before you report anything at work.
Less Obvious Forms of Sexual Harassment
Let’s face it—the typical workplace looks very different from how it looked 50 years ago, and the ways people experience harassment have changed drastically, too. No longer is it always a case of a male superior forcing a female subordinate into a sexual relationship. Although this still happens, other forms of sexual harassment are on the rise, including the following:
- Same-sex harassment. This type of harassment could occur between members of the LGBTQ community or not. For example, a straight female supervisor could sexually harass a female employee in order to belittle, frighten, or coerce her. Whether the harasser is straight or gay, it’s still harassment, and the perpetrator should be held responsible.
- Male-victim harassment. Women are in positions of power more than they used to be, and some of them abuse their roles to sexually harass male employees. The complaints of male victims are often unjustly dismissed, but they can suffer as much from workplace harassment as female victims.
- Co-worker harassment. Unwanted touching, propositions, verbal assaults, teasing, offensive jokes, and other inappropriate behavior from someone who is your equal at work is not considered sexual harassment by itself. However, a workplace culture that accepts this kind of behavior could be considered a hostile work environment, and the company could be held accountable.
- Virtual harassment. Unwanted and offensive attention does not have to take place in person to be considered sexual harassment. Suggestive emails, texts, social media posts, and digital photos could be used to threaten or proposition in a quid pro quo violation or could be a normal part of workplace communication, creating a hostile work environment for some employees.
As our workplaces continue to adapt to a changing world, new forms of sexual harassment are sure to arise. It is important that you consult an experienced attorney if you think you are being victimized at work.
Call Our New Jersey Employment Law Firm
At Steinberg Law, LLC, our employment law team stands up for employees who have been sexually harassed at work and helps them recover economic and non-economic damages for the losses they have suffered. Contact our office to schedule a consultation. If we believe we can add value to your case against your employer, we will tell you how.