Every day, thousands of New Jersey residents head to work. In most cases, they will spend a third of the day making a living. Your workplace should be a safe location where you can be a productive asset for your employer. Unfortunately, many people must deal with inappropriate behavior from supervisors or other co-workers. These negative comments and actions constitute the grounds for a legal claim of workplace harassment.

What is harassment in the workplace?

Recent stories have emphasized the problem of sexual harassment in the workplace. However, employment law defines harassment as a broader issue. Workplace harassment is any kind of conduct that creates a hostile work environment for an individual. Often, the offense centers around a characteristic of the victim that is protected under anti-discrimination laws. Some of the areas of concern include:

  • Race
  • Religion
  • Gender
  • Age
  • Disability

Who is responsible for addressing workplace harassment?

When a supervisor or co-worker sends offensive emails, makes insulting comments, or posts troubling images, these actions can make the victim feel upset and unsafe. Your employer is responsible for handling these issues. If your supervisor consistently tells offensive jokes, the manager should step in and address the issue. When the business fails to take action, it can be held liable for tolerating the harassment.

How should you handle a hostile work environment?

When the court hears a harassment case, it is important to establish a pattern of negative behaviors. Ideally, the offenses are stopped before they become part of the workplace culture. If a co-worker or supervisor sends you an offensive joke, tell him or her that you did not appreciate the so-called humor and why it was problematic. You might turn a troubling act into a teaching moment.

If the behavior continues, report it to your supervisor or HR representative. Your employer should handle the issue. However, you may want to begin keeping a record of the offensive behaviors so that you can prove a pattern later.

Seeking legal help

You should always feel safe at work. If the situation does not get better or if it gets worse as you pursue the problem, you might take legal action. An experienced discrimination and harassment lawyer may help you determine your next steps.

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