What is Important to Remember?

When it comes to sexual harassment, events are usually viewed in context. This means that in determining whether or not sexual harassment exists in the workplace depends on looking at all the circumstances.

For example, rude or obnoxious behavior in and of itself may not be sexually harassing. However, if such behavior is primarily directed at women it may well be considered a form of sexual harassment.

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Women and men are entitled to be free from severe or pervasive workplace conditions which disparage them on the basis of sex.

What is Sexual Harassment?

The following actions could be viewed as Sexual Harassment:

  • A male boss who offers a promotion or a raise in exchange for sexual favors.
  • A female supervisor who threatens to fire or demote a direct report after receiving a negative response to her sexual advances.
  • A foreman who is leering, making sexual gestures or who displays sexually suggestive objects or pictures, cartoons or posters.
  • A supervisor or fellow worker who makes sexually explicit jokes, or comments about an employee's body or dress.
  • A male CEO who makes passes at or sexual propositions to female administrative support staff.
  • An employee who sends unwanted sexually suggestive or obscene notes, letters or emails to a co-worker.  
  • A female manger that sexually touches, slaps, kisses or pinches male subordinates.

In New Jersey women can sexually harass men, men can sexually harass women, men can sexually harass other men, and women can sexually harass other women.

What Isn’t Sexual Harassment?

Nonsexual touching or conduct is not considered sexual harassment as long as it is not unwelcome and occurs under appropriate circumstances.

Asking a co-worker out is not considered sexual harassment.  However, it is important to take no for an answer.  If a co-worker repeatedly asks someone out and they repeated say no, then it can turn into harassment.

Two co-workers developing a consensual personal relationship is not considered sexual harassment.

A female employee wearing a top that shows cleavage or miniskirts is not sexual harassment.  Employees must follow a company’s dress code, but if miniskirts and cleavage are allowed, then employees have the right to wear them without being placed in fear of being harassed.

Two co-employees who are voluntarily sharing sexual or smutty jokes with each other is not usually viewed as sexual harassment. 

If you have a situation at work and you need clarification, please contact Fred Shahrooz-Scampato, PC, in Westfield, NJ. He can be reached at Scampato@njlaborlaw.com or on (908) 301-9095.