Sexual Harassment in the Workplace: Hostile Work Environment


Sexual harassment at work can take two forms, under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964: Quid pro quo and hostile work environment.


Sexual harassment based on a hostile work environment is unwelcome conduct based on sex. The behavior must be pervasive or severe enough to create an offensive or abusive working environment. Activities ranging from posting offensive material on a bulletin board to offensive jokes of a sexual nature can be sexual harassment. This type of harassment can happen to both women and men.


Hostile Work Environment Harassment


Workplace harassment that creates a hostile work environment may be grounds for legal action. In order to determine whether a hostile environment harassment claim is valid, a court will analyze the frequency of the conduct as well as whether:

  • The conduct was physical or verbal or both
  • The conduct was patently offensive or hostile
  • The alleged harasser was a supervisor or co-worker
  • Others joined in the harassing activities
  • The harassment singled out the victim or was directed at more than one individual.

Examples of sexual harassment based on a hostile workplace environment include:

  • Sexual jokes
  • Sharing sexually inappropriate videos or images with co-workers
  • Displays of offensive or inappropriate materials
  • Sending suggestive e-mails or notes
  • Making sexually-related comments about clothing, appearance or body parts
  • Inappropriate touching or intentionally brushing up against another person
  • Interfering with someone’s ability to move freely
  • Persistent, unwanted interactions such as continually requesting dates
  • Asking sexual questions or making offensive comments about someone’s sexual history, sexual orientation or gender identity

Whether or not the activity creates a hostile environment – if it is unwelcome, frequent or pervasive – will be determined on a case-by-case basis.

To summarize, generally any words or actions with a sexual connotation that create an uncomfortable atmosphere or interfere with an employee’s ability to work may be considered sexual harassment. Harassment victims may not be limited to the target of the offense – others may also be impacted by the inappropriate behavior, such as a co-worker who is present during and affected by inappropriate sexual comments not addressed directly to them.

Workers in New Jersey are protected from sexual harassment at work by the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (NJLAD) in addition to Title VII.

We Can Help If You Have Been a Victim of Sexual Harassment in the Workplace

If you or a family member has experienced sexual assault or sexual harassment of any kind or has been injured in an accident or by any other type of personal injury, or needs help with any employment discrimination or family law issue, please contact the Law Offices of Paul S. Foreman, P.C. immediately. We have the right experience to get the optimal results for your case. Please call us for a free consultation. Attorney Paul S. Foreman, personal injury attorney in Essex, will fight to secure justice for you and your family. You can reach us at 973-315-3232 or contact us via the website.