A lawsuit that has been filed against dentists accusing them of sexual harassment has not only included employees who work in the office, but patients as well. These claims often include offensive statements and innuendos, as well as inappropriate, unwelcome, and unlawful sexual harassment and conduct, such as touching and lewd gestures. Employers have a duty to prevent and remedy harassment, and yet, unfortunately, like many other cases where concerns are reported, the response is often both inappropriate and illegal, when employees’ concerns are dismissed and they are told that they can leave.
In some cases, the dentists have even fired the employee for refusing their advances. In these cases, sexual harassment is actually a form of discrimination based on sex/gender, which means that employment discrimination issues are also often involved. Not only do employees often face retaliation for reporting sexual harassment, but significant emotional harm, as well. In these cases, if a clinic and/or LLC employs the dentist and fails to stop the sexual harassment, the litigation can focus on its culpability as well.
Sexual Harassment Violates New Jersey Anti-Discrimination Law
If those who have been subjected to sexual harassment in the workplace do not stand up and do what is right, it affects everyone. Employers who engage in sexual harassment not only create a hostile work environment, but also violate the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination by engaging in harassment, discriminatory intimidation, and retaliation by firing employees when they refuse to respond in a particular way to their sexually inappropriate advances. In addition, a single act of harassment can be sufficient to constitute an unlawful act.
Am I Being Sexually Harassed at Work?
Sexual harassment in the workplace, including dental offices, covers a wide range of behaviors and mistreatment, including but not limited to:
- Treating employees of a certain gender differently, such as paying them less or failing to promote them.
- Making unwelcome innuendos, jokes or conversation that make a person of a certain gender or orientation feel uncomfortable.
- Objectifying an employee based on their appearance.
- Sending emails or images of a sexual nature.
- Making unwanted physical contact such as patting, touching, or rubbing.
- Subjecting persons of a certain gender to increased scrutiny, criticism, and harassment, or otherwise making their workplace uncomfortable.
- Sexual advances or propositions, including suggestions of trading advancement for sexual favors, commonly known as quid pro quo sexual harassment.
- Verbal or physical abuse.
- Using sexist slurs or comments.
- Terminating or disciplining an employee in retaliation for making a complaint about sexual harassment.
- Harassment of LGBT employees.
Nini v. Mercer County Community College, 202 N.J. 98, 109 (2010); Lehmann v. Toys ’R’ Us, Inc., 132 N.J. 587, 600 (1993) .
Sexual harassment decreases workplace morale, diminishes the dignity of employees, and can cause significant damage to the personal well-being and career of a harassed employee. Sexual harassment victims may suffer economic damages, such as lost past and future wages, and may also suffer significant emotional damages such as anxiety, depression, humiliation, shock, sleeplessness, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Fearful of losing their jobs, many victims endure the abuse. For this reason, sexual harassment is significantly under reported.
Types of Harassment Recognized by the Courts
The courts in New Jersey have recognized two specific categories of sexual harassment claims, including:
- Quid pro quo: When an employer makes an employee’s submission to their sexual advances a condition of their employment
- Hostile work environment: When the employer harasses an employee to the point where the work environment becomes hostile
Employers can be held liable for damages when it comes to supervisory sexual harassment, and this includes punitive damages if willful indifference or active participation by upper management was involved. In addition, employees who have been harassed and subjected to discrimination like this can seek compensation due to emotional distress, loss of employment, and loss of past and future wages.
Retaliation After Sexual Harassment in the Workplace
Employees should not have to fear speaking out against harassment. It is illegal for any employer to terminate, discipline, or otherwise retaliate against an employee who reports, complains, files a charge, or participates in an investigation regarding sexual harassment. This applies to both internal and EEOC claims. If you complained about harassment and were fired, denied privileges, or demoted as a result, you may be able to file a separate sexual harassment retaliation charge.
N.J.S.A. §10:5-12(d); Craig v. Suburban Cablevision, Inc., 140 N.J. 623, 639-630 (1995).
If You Have Been Sexually Harassed as an Employee of a Dental Office, Contact McOmber McOmber & Luber for Help
If you have been the victim of sexual harassment in the workplace, including dental offices, as an employee, contact the dedicated sexual harassment and retaliation recovery attorneys of McOmber McOmber & Luber today to find out how we can help ensure that these wrongs committed against you are addressed.
For more information, please call our offices in Red Bank, New Jersey at 732-842-6500, in Marlton, New Jersey at 856-985-9800, or in Newark, New Jersey at 973-878-9040.