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Sexual Harassment vs. Sexual Discrimination: What’s the Difference?

Sexual harassment and sexual discrimination are both illegal when they happen in the workplace. However, there are significant differences between the two concepts. If you’ve been the victim of gender-based mistreatment at work, here’s how to tell the difference between the two.

Both sexual harassment and sexual discrimination have serious negative consequences for a person’s quality of life and career prospects. If you’ve been the victim of either, a New Jersey employment lawyer can help you take legal action. 

What is sexual discrimination?

Sexual discrimination refers to treating someone differently because of their gender, sexual orientation, or because they are pregnant. Individuals dealing with sexual discrimination in the workplace may experience a negative impact in areas like: 

  • Promotions
  • Pay raises
  • Equal pay
  • Projects 
  • Responsibilities

When employees miss out on workplace opportunities like those listed above due to sexual discrimination, they can take legal action against their employer. One of the most pervasive forms of sexual discrimination in the workplace is sexual harassment. 

What is sexual harassment?

Sexual harassment is one form of sexual discrimination. It includes any type of unwanted sexual attention. There’s a wide range of behaviors that can be considered sexual harassment. Some of the most common include: 

  • Physical Harassment: Unwanted touching or gestures
  • Verbal Harassment: Sexual comments or jokes
  • Visual Harassment: Explicit images, videos, or drawings

Sexual behavior in the workplace is unacceptable. When it makes other employees uncomfortable, it becomes a matter of sexual harassment. This is true even when the sexual behavior isn’t directed at you – for example, hearing colleagues make sexual comments about another coworker counts as sexual harassment in New Jersey.  

Taking Action over Workplace Sexual Discrimination

New Jersey law recognizes two forms of sexual harassment – hostile environment and quid pro quo. These two types have different requirements for proving them in court. 

Quid pro quo sexual harassment involves a coworker or superior requesting or implying that you should engage in sexual activity for a specific purpose. You might be offered an incentive, like a promotion, raise, or another form of compensation. They might also threaten or imply that you’ll face negative workplace consequences if you decline, like being fired or passed over for promotion. 

With quid pro quo sexual harassment, there’s no need to prove an ongoing pattern of behavior. A single incident is sufficient grounds for legal action. 

To take legal action over hostile environment sexual harassment, you need to demonstrate a pattern of behavior that has led to a hostile workplace. Isolated incidents involving sexual comments or behavior are generally not enough to take action. 

Carefully document all instances of sexual harassment. Save any texts or emails, and use your company’s internal reporting system to register your complaints. It’s wise to keep a notebook for verbal conversations and other incidents. Write down the date, time, exact words or actions, and the names of any witnesses. 

The same goes for proving other forms of workplace sexual discrimination. The more documentation you can provide, the stronger your case. 

How a New Jersey Employment Lawyer Can Help 

If you’ve been the victim of sexual discrimination or sexual harassment at work, you may not know how to take action. Often, employees remain silent because they fear retaliation or other consequences of speaking up. 

The New Jersey Law Against Discrimination protects all workers from having to experience any form of sexual discrimination while at work. 

If someone at your workplace has violated this law, speaking up can help create a safe, healthy workplace for everyone and provide you with compensation for what you’ve endured. 

Speaking up against sexual discrimination is the only way to make it stop for good. Call NJ Employment Lawyers, LLC to speak with a New Jersey employment lawyer about your options.