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Sexual orientation harassment can be based on perception

State and federal laws protect employees in New Jersey from harassment in the workplace. This illegal behavior can create a hostile work environment that is not only impossibly stressful, but can actually lead to very real health issues. While sexual harassment may be the first kind that comes to mind, it certainly is not the only type of illegal workplace harassment.

Another protected class of individuals includes those who have suffered harassment based on their sexual orientation. The assumption often is that protection from sexual orientation harassment applies only to those who are admittedly homosexual, bisexual or transgendered. The truth is that harassment based on a perceived LGBT status is prohibited as well.

Take the situation of a New Jersey transit worker. The man said in a recent lawsuit that he suffered harassment based on sexual orientation. He said that his co-workers believed that he was gay. As a result, they did things like throw water in his face, grab his buttocks, attach inappropriate sketches to his locker, accuse him of being sexually attracted to co-workers of the same sex and was forced to endure gay slurs.

The man has not confirmed whether he is in fact gay or not, and that doesn’t matter according to state law enacted in 1992. The law protects those who are “perceived, presumed or identified by others” as homosexual, and that harassment based on this perception should be prevented by an employer. Should an incident occur, the employer must to take steps to address and correct the situation.

Source: NorthJersey.com, “NJ Transit employee alleges sexual harassment,” Karen Rouse, Sept. 5, 2013

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