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Harassment on the Basis of Age, Disability, Sexual Orientation, Race, Religion, and Other Protected Characteristics

What You Need to Know About Workplace Harassment

Not all workplace harassment is unlawful. Only harassment that causes a hostile work environment (as defined by the law) is illegal. The legal definition of unlawful harassment is workplace conduct by a supervisor or co-worker (or under certain circumstances, a third party such as a vendor or customer) that is directed at an employee because of a discriminatory or retaliatory motive and is severe or pervasive enough to cause a reasonable person of the same legally protected characteristic as the targeted employee to believe that the conditions of employment have changed to make the work environment hostile. That’s a mouthful! So, let’s unpack that and restate it in plain English.

Discriminatory Motive

Many people think that a hostile work environment is any workplace that is unpleasant. That is not the case under the law. An unlawful hostile work environment is one in which the hostility is directed at the employee because of a legally prohibited discriminatory or retaliatory motive.

In New Jersey, it is unlawful for an employer to treat an employee differently because of that employee’s age, disability, gender, pregnancy, sexual orientation, gender identity, race, color, ancestry, nationality, national origin, religion, marital status, civil union status, domestic partnership status or military service. Harassment is illegal only if the employee is targeted based on one of these legally protected characteristics (or in retaliation for legally protected conduct, which is addressed on other pages of this website).

Severe or Pervasive

Not all harassment that is directed at an employee because of a legally protected characteristic is serious enough to make a legal claim of a hostile work environment. The conduct must be severe or pervasive. “Severe” refers to one or more incidents that are particularly bad. Under New Jersey law, even a single incident of harassment is unlawful if it is serious enough. “Pervasive” refers to many incidents occurring regularly that are not that bad when considered by themselves but when taken together create a hostile work environment due to the frequency with which they occur.

Reasonable Person Standard

Under New Jersey law, whether the harassment is bad enough to create a hostile work environment is judged based on how a reasonable person of the same legally protected characteristic as the harassed employee would feel. So, for example, if a case involves a claim of harassment by an older employee, the standard is whether a reasonable older person would have found the work environment to be hostile.

Facing Age Discrimination, Disability Discrimination or Sexual Orientation Discrimination

If you are being or have been harassed at work because of any protected characteristic, call the harassment claims attorneys at Lenzo & Reis, LLC, at (973) 845-9922. We represent employees who have been harassed at work in Newark, Jersey City and Morristown, and throughout New Jersey, and can also be reached by completing our online form.

Client Reviews
★★★★★
"Professional and Knowledgeable Attorney. At what was supposed to be the highest point in my career suddenly became the most harassing and lowest point of my career and I was passed over for a promotion. Not because the other person was more qualified than I was, but because I followed the law and did the right thing and the people I worked for did not like that. After researching several attorneys, my wife and I found Claudia, and the decision to retain her was the best decision we ever made. After explaining our case to Claudia, we found that she was not only extremely professional but a very caring human being. Throughout the entire process of our case, Claudia was there with us every step of the way. She explained every single proceeding that we had to go through and guided us, not only as a professional attorney in and out of court, but personally as a caring and understanding person. Because of her extensive working knowledge of employment and labor laws, Claudia was able to successfully resolve our case. My wife and I will always be extremely grateful for Claudia’s hard work and dedication, and we highly recommend Claudia Reis to anyone seeking an attorney who practices in employment and labor laws." John
★★★★★
"Professionalism, integrity, and determination. Outstanding representation! Chris Lenzo did an outstanding job in my employment discrimination case. He responded to my questions in a timely fashion, provided clear communication through each step of the process, and handled my case in an honest and straight forward manner. Chris’s expertise in employment law along with his hard work ensured justice would prevail in my case and got me the compensation I deserved. Likewise, Chris’s law firm staff was professional, courteous, organized, and effective. I highly recommend Chirs Lenzo’s firm to anyone with an employment legal matter in New Jersey or New York." Sofia
★★★★★
"Remarkable professional. I have worked with Ms. Reis and her firm for the past three years. During the consultation process, you will immediately experience her compassion as she offers suggestions and guides you through the difficult situation you are dealing with. Her attention to detail, timely follow up and candid manner ensured me that I was well-protected and represented. Ms. Reis always went above and beyond to protect me legally. She is a very strong and tough (when necessary) advocate for the individual she represents. Her support staff is equally diligent. I would recommend her without reservation." A.M.