Housekeeper sexual harassment is a serious issue in New Jersey and throughout the US, and can be perpetrated not only by supervisors and employees, but facility guests and private employers as well. There are many people who will try to take advantage of hospitality workers. These workers often face unique challenges, such as working after hours after others have gone home, or in private homes where they are especially vulnerable. Many are also female, do not speak English, and are immigrants, placing them potentially at risk of being unable to report incidents of harassment due to potential deportation or other retaliation. Many have noted that the industry is structured such that workers who are uniquely vulnerable to harassment are isolated and afraid to come forward to report that harassment.
Even before the #MeToo movement went viral, a group of night shift janitors started a movement to bring public attention to the extreme sexual abuse and harassment that they regularly experienced on the job and in the field. In part inspired by a documentary called Rape on the Night Shift, leaders of janitors unions found that approximately half of those surveyed indicated that they had been sexually assaulted or harassed at work, and an additional quarter indicated that they had witnessed it, indicating that there is a serious, entrenched problem.
Federal and New Jersey Law and Legal Requirements
In New Jersey, sexual harassment training is required for cleaning service providers. Training only applies to state agencies in 13 states, including New Jersey. However, in February 2020, New Jersey Governor Murphy released proposals to strengthen New Jersey’s anti-harassment laws, which includes a requirement that all employers provide training on unlawful discrimination and harassment.
In addition, under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, companies that employ any supervisors are strictly liable for any sexual harassment carried out by them if it culminates in a tangible employment action because they are responsible for the acts of their supervisors and are incentivized to prevent harassment in the first place. The only way that employers can attempt to avoid liability or limit damages is by establishing that they exercised reasonable care to prevent and correct any harassing behavior and the employee who was subject to harassment failed to take advantage of opportunities provided by the employer to avoid harm.
If You Have Been Harassed, Contact Our New Jersey Sexual Harassment and Employment Attorneys
If you have been subjected to sexual harassment in the workplace, know that it is wrong and illegal, regardless of who you are or what your background is. If you run a cleaning company, the best way to protect yourself from liability is to enforce a strict zero-tolerance policy when it comes to sexual harassment, and this includes lewd jokes and other behavior that may seem innocuous.
Contact our skilled attorneys to discuss any questions, concerns, options, etc. today – we provided skilled legal counseling on the issue of hostile work environments and sexual harassment.