Workplace Sexual Harassment Explained

The New Jersey Supreme Court recently decided a case involving workplace sexual harassment.  The case both helps and hurts employees who are the victims of workplace sexual harassment.  The good news first.  It is now easier for victims of sexual harassment to identify harassers as supervisors.  An employee can be a supervisor in one of two ways.  First, if an employee has the authority to recommend “tangible employment actions.”  For instance, if an employee can recommend suspension or termination, that employee would be a supervisor.  Second, if an employee directs the complainant’s day-to-day activities in the workplace, such employee would also be viewed as a supervisor.  An employer can be liable for supervisor sexual harassment.

The bad news is that employers  have a new defense in NJ state cases.  The employer can defend based on reasonable care.  The employer would have to show that it took care to prevent and correct promptly sexual harassment.  The employer would also have to show that the employee did not take advantage of the employer’s “preventive or corrective opportunities” to avoid harm.  Such opportunities include an employer’s sexual harassment policy.  This defense applies only if the employee has not been subjected to an action, such as a termination or a constructive termination.

It is important in sexual harassment cases for employees to follow employer policies to report sexual harassment.  The failure to report could prevent a recovery in a sexual harassment case.  However, if you have been disciplined, suspended, or terminated, this employer defense may not apply.

Ronald Wronko is experienced in handling sexual harassment cases.  If you believe you are the victim of sexual harassment, you should contact Ron Wronko Law for an initial consultation.

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