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Sexual Harassment FAQs

Frequently Asked Questions on Sexual Harassment in New Jersey

Answers from experienced employment law attorneys in Hackensack

Headlines demonstrate that sexual harassment continues to be rampant and is a serious problem to employees. In addition to federal laws, New Jersey and New York State and City have laws that prohibit harassment based upon sex or gender. These laws require that employers have effective policies and procedures to prevent sexual harassment and that employers do something to stop it when they become aware that sexual harassment may be occurring.

At Deutsch Atkins & Kleinfeldt, P.C., our attorneys understand that you may have questions about the law, and we are happy to answer them. The following are some of the most frequently asked questions about sexual harassment in the workplace that we are asked by our clients:

Q: What is sexual harassment?

A: Sexual harassment in the workplace is defined as unwanted sexual advances or behavior by an employee’s supervisors and/or co-workers. There are two types. The first is called quid pro quo (a fancy lawyer term / Latin meaning “this for that”). Quid pro quo sexual harassment is most commonly a request for sexual favors coupled with a tangible job action — or a promise or threat of one — to reward acquiescence or punish resistance to the request (e.g., sleep with me and you get/keep the job). It can also occur if adverse employment actions result from the termination of a consensual sexual relationship with a supervisor. The second is hostile work environment harassment. Hostile work environment sexual harassment is unwelcome physical or verbal conduct of a sexual nature that is so severe or pervasive that it interferes with work or alters the terms and conditions of employment.

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Q: Who can be a sexual harassment victim?

A: All employees, regardless of gender identity or sexual orientation, are protected by state and federal laws prohibiting sexual harassment. A hostile work environment can be the basis of a sexual harassment suit by any employee, regardless of which gender is the overt target of the conduct. A man can sexually harass another man. A woman can sexually harass a man. The claim is not just limited to heterosexual harassment of a woman by a man (although that tends to be the most common form). What matters is that the unwelcome conduct is motivated by sex or gender.

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Q: What is the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (LAD) and who enforces it?

A: The LAD is a broad and remedial New Jersey law that protects employees from various types of discrimination, including sexual harassment. Claims under the LAD can be advanced directly in court (through a lawsuit) or with the New Jersey Division of Civil Rights (DCR), a state agency that reviews complaints and takes administrative or legal action where it finds LAD violations. New York has similar proceedings under its State and City Human Rights laws.

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Q: What is the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC)?

A: The EEOC is the federal agency that investigates and prosecutes complaints for violation of federal laws that prohibit discrimination against a job applicant or employee, including sexual harassment. Employees seeking to sue under federal law must first file their complaint with the EEOC (this is different from New Jersey Law, which permits the employee to elect to sue in court, right away).

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Q: Is there a time limit for filing a sexual harassment claim?

A: Yes. Under the New Jersey LAD, there is a two-year statute of limitations. Different (shorter) time periods apply if the employee elects to file the complaint with a government agency (the EEOC or DCR).

Q: Can I file a claim with both the NJ Division of Civil Rights and the EEOC?

A: A person alleging sexual harassment has the right to file complaints with the EEOC and the DCR, who have a shared arrangement for enforcing laws. However, dual filing is unnecessary because the two agencies have a work-sharing arrangement. It is very important that you speak with an attorney about which law is at play (federal, state, or both) and what venue you should pursue your claim in — BEFORE you file a claim with an administrative agency.

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Q: Can I get fired for reporting sexual harassment?

A: Employers may try to mask or conceal the retaliatory motive by fabricating other reasons for the adverse employment action. It is unlawful to fire or otherwise retaliate against an employee for internally reporting sexual harassment. The same laws that make sexual harassment illegal make such unlawful retaliation illegal. If you have been subjected to adverse treatment (discharge, demotion, or harassment for complaining) after lodging a complaint, you may have a claim under federal or state law. It is important to know your rights if you are experiencing retaliation and you should immediately seek to speak with a knowledgeable attorney.

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Contact an accomplished New Jersey employment litigator for more answers

Deutsch Atkins & Kleinfeldt, P.C. in Hackensack represents New Jersey workers in a full range of employment law matters, including sexual harassment/hostile environment and other discrimination actions. Please call 551-245-8894 or contact us online to schedule a consultation.

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Neil H. Deutsch

About 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…

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Bruce L. Atkins
Senior Partner

About Bruce L. Atkins is regarded as one of New Jersey’s premier practitioners of employment and civil litigation. He has been selected to the New Jersey Super Lawyers prestigious list every year since 2005.  This honor, bestowed upon a recipient by the votes of his peers, is a powerful nod to the skill Mr. Atkins…

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Adam J. Kleinfeldt

About Adam J. Kleinfeldt joined Deutsch Atkins & Kleinfeldt, P.C. in March of 2015.  He primarily represents individuals in employment litigations 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 some of his clients, including a $525,000 jury verdict…

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Diane Englander Peyser

About Diane Englander Peyser joined Deutsch Atkins & Kleinfeldt, P.C. in September 2018 where she represents employees in wrongful termination, retaliation, harassment, and discrimination matters. Prior to joining Deutsch Atkins & Kleinfeldt, P.C., Diane represented clients in all aspects of employment law on behalf of employees involving unemployment appeals, claims of sexual harassment, LGBT discrimination,…

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Debra M. McGarvey

About 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),…

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