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No, only certain types of harassment complaints are protected by law. If your harasser, however, has subjected you to a hostile work environment because of your membership in a recognized “protected class," then you may bring a claim for harassment.
In other words, if it would be true for you to say: "My supervisor is harassing me because of my [race, creed, color, national origin, nationality, ancestry, age, sex (including pregnancy and sexual harassment), marital status, domestic partnership or civil union status, affectional or sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, atypical hereditary cellular or blood trait, genetic information liability for military service, or mental or physical disability, including AIDS and HIV related illnesses], then you have a claim for unlawful harassment.
However, if you only complain that you are being picked on because the supervisor has a short temper or doesn’t like you, or any other reason unrelated to your membership in a “protected class,” then you may not have sufficient facts to support a claim of an unlawful hostile work environment.
There’s a two-step process involved in determining whether you have a viable claim. The first step focuses on whether the bad conduct is severe or pervasive. Is the conduct sufficiently severe or pervasive such that a reasonable person would believe that the conditions of employment have been altered and that the work environment is intimidating, hostile or abusive?
Severity focuses on the magnitude and seriousness of the impact of the harassing conduct or statements. Pervasiveness focuses upon whether the conduct permeates the work place and is often demonstrated by how often the conduct occurs.
Second, did the harassing conduct occur because of your membership in a recognized “protected class?” In other words, did the conduct occur because the harasser was prejudiced against me due to my race, religion, age, gender, nationality, sexual orientation, age, etc., or did the conduct occur because the harasser was interested in me sexually?
One example of unlawful harassment would be a co-worker frequently complimenting a co-worker on her figure or other parts of her anatomy. Another example could involve repeated disparaging comments directed more against female employees than male employees. Yet another could involve a supervisor frequently needling an older employee because of his age, implying that the worker is not up to doing his job because of age.
If the conduct is severe and or pervasive and is based on your membership in a protected class you may well have a viable claim. It is important to call an employment attorney as soon as possible if you are experiencing harassment in the workplace or if you have any questions regarding workplace harassment or discrimination.
Whether you are an employer looking for assistance with employment law issues, or an employee who feels unfairly treated, Fred Shahrooz Scampato can provide you with the benefit of his over twenty years experience in employment law. His goal is to prevent workplace problems from becoming costly litigation. He can be reached at Scampato@aol.com, Scampato@njlaborlaw.com or 908-301-9095. Visit his website at www.njlaborlaw.com.
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