In the state of New Jersey, it’s illegal to create a hostile work environment. However, the burden of proof is on the accuser–and if you want to file a lawsuit, you’ll need solid evidence to prove that harassment took place. You’ll also need to show the judge that this was a pattern of behavior, not a one-off comment.
What qualifies as a hostile work environment?
In employment law terms, a hostile work environment is a toxic environment that makes it hard for you to do your job. When you file a lawsuit, you’ll have to prove that the harassment made it difficult or impossible to get your work done. For example, you might have trouble focusing on your work if your supervisor belittles you or makes unwanted sexual remarks.
A hostile work environment also involves a pattern of behavior. Your employment law attorney might not be able to build a case over one comment, but you might have a case if the individual repeatedly harassed you over an extended period of time. Their behavior is more serious if they targeted you because of your race, gender, age, religion or another factor that’s protected by employment law.
Finally, a hostile work environment occurs when upper management doesn’t make an attempt to stop harrassment. When the incident occurs, it’s important to report it to your supervisor. If they take action and the harassment ends, you might not have grounds for a lawsuit. However, if they ignore the problem or make it worse, you might be able to hold them accountable.
Do you have to report the incident to your supervisor?
If you don’t report the incident, it’s easier for the other party to deny your accusations. Reporting the incident helps you build a paper trail that proves that you’ve dealt with harassment over a long period of time.