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NJ Bill Would Make It Easier to Prove Hostile Workplace Sexual Harassment

A bill pending in the New Jersey Legislature is aimed at lowering the standard for proving hostile workplace sexual harassment under the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (NJLAD).

If passed, Assembly Bill 2443 would codify the definition of hostile workplace sexual harassment as conduct that occurred because of a person’s sex and which a reasonable person of the same sex would find sufficiently “severe or pervasive” so as to negatively alter the conditions of employment. 

This definition would clarify that whether harassing conduct is severe or pervasive enough should be based on the totality of the circumstances.

Notably, the bill states that a single incident of harassment could be considered sufficient to create an intimidating, hostile or offensive work environment. This provision departs from previous interpretations of the NJLAD that required a pattern of pervasive conduct to establish a hostile workplace claim.

The bill specifically disavows the decisions in Clayton v. City of Atlantic City, a 2013 Third Circuit case that held an incident in which a supervisor intentionally grabbed an employee’s buttocks did not rise to the level of severe or pervasive conduct, and Godfrey v. Princeton Theological Seminary, a 2018 New Jersey Supreme Court case that held harassing conduct not directed at or witnessed by plaintiff cannot factor into the analysis of a hostile work environment claim.

  1. 2443 also makes clear that there is no requirement for physical contact in such harassment claims. Offensive language, gestures or threats, whether sexual in nature or otherwise, may be enough to support a claim for unlawful harassment under the proposed law.

In addition, the bill emphasizes that the determination of whether conduct is severe or pervasive should be made from the perspective of a reasonable person in the complainant’s protected class. This means that the experiences and sensitivities of individuals from different backgrounds would be taken into account when assessing harassment claims.

If the bill is passed, New Jersey would join several other states, including California, Maryland, New York, and Colorado, that have amended their anti-discrimination laws to adopt more employee-friendly definitions of hostile workplace sexual harassment. These changes would make it easier for employees in New Jersey to bring and win such claims, leading to increased accountability for employers to police their workplaces.

Deutsch Atkins & Kleinfeldt, P.C. in Hackensack represents New Jersey workers in a full range of employment law matters, including sexual harassment claims. Please call 551-245-8894 or contact us online to schedule a meeting with one of our attorneys.

Neil  H.  Deutsch Attorney Photo
Neil H. Deutsch

Neil H. Deutsch has been practicing law for over 35 years and is known as a skilled negotiator in employment and discrimination law. He believes in a bottom-line approach of risk analysis and cost effectiveness for his clients. "Case evaluation is something we take seriously," says Mr. Deutsch who seeks top net dollar for his…

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Bruce L. Atkins
Senior Partner

Bruce L. Atkins is the Senior Managing Partner at Deutsch Atkins & Kleinfeldt P.C., a prominent plaintiff employment law firm in the tri-state area. Mr. Atkins believes employees’ rights should be aggressively pursued when they’ve been wrongfully dealt with by their employers. He brings this philosophy to his practice when considering each case and its…

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Adam J. Kleinfeldt

Adam J. Kleinfeldt joined Deutsch Atkins & Kleinfeldt, P.C. in March of 2015.  He primarily represents individuals in employment litigation such as discrimination, retaliation and whistle blowing matters. He has extensive experience in all phases of the litigation process. Adam has obtained significant results for his clients, including a $525,000 jury verdict in a sexual…

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Debra M. McGarvey

Debra M. McGarvey joined Deutsch Atkins & Kleinfeldt, P.C. in December 2019. She has extensive experience defending employees and employers in state and federal court in employment litigation matters. She has represented clients on various issues arising out of the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (NJLAD), the New Jersey Conscientious Employee Protection Act (CEPA), the…

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Carly Skarbnik Meredith

Carly Skarbnik Meredith, Esq. is a Partner at the firm. Carly has focused her career exclusively in the field of employment law. She has a plethora of experience representing both employees and employers with their employment issues, needs, and concerns. She believes representing both employees and employers has made her an extremely well-rounded client advocate.…


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