The most common form of hostile work environment harassment is sexual harassment. But harassment on the basis of any protected status, such as age, race, national origin or sexual orientation is a form of discrimination and is prohibited by the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (NJLAD).
If you have been harassed because of some protected status, and that harassment has created a hostile work environment, then you may have a claim under the NJLAD. The Mercer County, NJ harassment lawyers at Zuckerman & Fisher, L.L.C. in Princeton can help you establish your claim. To do so, we must be able to prove two things:
- First, we must prove that the complained-of conduct actually occurred. Often there are no witnesses to harassment, but your good credibility can be enough to establish that the harassment took place.
- Second, we must prove that the conduct constitutes discriminatory harassment. Not all harassment is against the law. Only harassment because of your protected status (such as age, race or gender) is a violation of the NJLAD.
Does the conduct constitute harassment based on a protected status?
To prove that the conduct constitutes discriminatory harassment, you must be able to prove two elements by a preponderance of the evidence:
First, you must prove that the conduct occurred because of some protected status, such as your age, race, gender, disability, national origin or sexual orientation.
Second, you must prove that the conduct was severe or pervasive enough to make a reasonable person believe that the conditions of employment were altered and that the working environment was intimidating, hostile or abusive.
a. Did the conduct occur “because of” your protected status?
For example, if you are claiming that you are being harassed because you are gay, you must prove that the conduct would not have occurred if you were heterosexual.
To prove that the conduct occurred because of your protected status, you do not have to prove that your employer or supervisor intended to harass you or intended to create a hostile working environment. The employee’s or supervisor’s intent is not at issue. The issue is simply whether the conduct occurred because of your protected status.
b. Was the conduct sufficiently severe or pervasive?
To establish this element, keep in mind the following:
- The conduct does not have to be both severe and pervasive; the conduct need only be severe orpervasive. The conduct can consist of a single very severe incident or an accumulation of incidents. When the conduct consists of multiple incidents, you should not consider each incident individually, but should consider the totality of the incidents. Numerous incidents that would not be sufficient if considered individually or separately may be sufficient when considered together.
- You need not personally have been the target of each or any instance of offensive or harassing conduct for a court to find that the working environment was hostile. Evidence of offensive or harassing conduct directed toward other workers, if you personally witnessed that conduct, is also relevant.
- In deciding whether the conduct in your case is sufficiently severe or pervasive to create a hostile working environment, a court will view the conduct from the perspective of a reasonable person who is also a member of your protected status, not from your own subjective perspective. In other words, the issue that must be decided is not whether you personally believed your working environment was hostile. The issue is whether a reasonable person of your age or with your disability (or whatever protected status is at issue) would find the working environment hostile.
Finally, it is not necessary to show that you have actually been psychologically harmed by the conduct, or that you suffered any economic loss as a consequence of the conduct. Those issues may be relevant to the amount of damages you can recover, but they are not relevant to the issue of whether the conduct constitutes unlawful harassment.
Contact an experienced hostile work environment attorney in Mercer County, NJ
Determining whether you have a claim for employment requires the assistance of an experienced Mercer County hostile work environment attorney. If you believe you are the victim of a hostile work environment, please contact the law office of Zuckerman & Fisher, L.L.C. online or at 609.514.0514 to speak with a seasoned discrimination lawyer in Mercer County.