Can A “Joke” Be Considered Sexual Harassment In The Workplace?
Sexual harassment remains a major problem in U.S. workplaces. The Institute for Women’s Policy Research that as many as 80 percent of women have endured or witnessed sexual harassment while on the job. Many men have been victims of sexual harassment as well. You may have questions about what is and what is not considered to be sexual harassment.
For example: Can someone’s offensive “joke” be considered sexual harassment? The answer is a clear “yes”—a joke(s) of a sexual nature that is unwelcome could be sexual harassment if deemed “severe or pervasive.” Here, our Monmouth County sexual harassment attorneys explain the key things to know about “jokes” and workplace hostile work environment claims in New Jersey.
An Overview of Hostile Work Environment Sexual Harassment
So-called “jokes” and related behavior generally falls under the category of hostile work environment sexual harassment. As explained by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), a hostile work environment is one that would make a reasonable person feel unsafe, uncomfortable, and/or unwelcome.
That is not to say that every off-color sexual joke is automatically sexual harassment. The standard under federal law and state law is “severe or pervasive.” A “joke” becomes sexual harassment if it is so severely offensive or the behavior is so pervasive that it would interfere with a reasonable worker’s ability to do their job. These are highly fact-specific cases.
Steps to Take If You Believe You Were a Victim of Workplace Sexual Harassment
Do you believe that you were the victim of sexual harassment at work due to “jokes” and other unwanted and unwelcomed comments? You need to protect your well-being and your rights. Here are three key steps to take if you were subject to workplace sexual harassment in New Jersey:
- Report the Harassment: You have the right to report sexual harassment—both formally and informally. Assuming you feel comfortable and safe enough to do so, notify your supervisor and/or HR department of the sexual harassment. They cannot punish you for doing so. That would be retaliation, which gives rise to another cause of action.
- Document Harassment: To the best of your ability, document the sexual harassment. Write down your account of what happened and when it happened. Get the names of any witnesses. If there are text messages or emails, preserve them.
- Consult With a Lawyer: You do not have to navigate the legal system alone. It is a best practice to consult with an experienced New Jersey sexual harassment attorney. An employee rights advocate with experience handling these cases can help protect you.
Contact Our New Jersey Sexual Harassment Lawyer Today
At Poulos LoPiccolo PC, our New Jersey employee rights advocates have the skills, experience, and expertise to handle sexual harassment claims. If you were subject to a hostile work environment, we can help. Contact us now to set up a strictly confidential initial legal consultation. We represent employees in sexual harassment claims in Monmouth County and throughout New Jersey.