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Laws protecting workers from sexual harassment

Unwanted sexual conduct in the workplace can create an intolerable working environment. There are several actions that may amount to sexual harassment, including but not limited to any form of unsolicited sexual advance, suggestive comments, sexually suggestive leering and sexually offensive gestures. In New Jersey, workers may invoke both state and federal laws when protecting themselves from this type of unwelcome behavior.

Both men and women can find themselves to be victims of sexual harassment in the workplace. According to the law, employers have a legal duty to protect workers from discrimination in the workplace as well as a hostile working environment. Moreover, once an employee has reported harassment, an employer is required by law to take the necessary steps to ensure that the harassment ceases, the harasser desists and no retaliation occurs against the employee who reported the harassment.

The New Jersey Law Against Discrimination offers two avenues of relief to employees who have been sexually harassed. Within 180 days of an act of discrimination or harassment, employees may file a complaint with the New Jersey Division of Civil Rights. This board will investigate an employee's allegations and, if necessary, hold a hearing on the matter. An employee may instead choose to seek relief through the New Jersey Superior Court. In this type of action, individuals usually retain the counsel and representation of a private attorney. It is important to note that sexual harassment victims may not simultaneously file an action with both the Civil Rights Division and the Superior Court.

There are many laws pertaining to sexual harassment, discrimination and hostile working environments, and they may prove to be difficult to navigate for victims seeking legal recourse. That is why many people who believe themselves to be victims of unwelcome sexual conduct in the workplace immediately seek the counsel of an attorney.

Source: NJ Office of the Attorney General, "Sexual Harassment - Your Rights", October 17, 2014

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