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April 02, 2018

Sexual Harassment in the workplace has become a hot-button topic over the last few months. Many people are unclear on what it is and how easy it is to sexually harass another co-worker. It’s also a topic I typically must educate people on daily so that they are aware of how easily the line can be crossed. While the topic may be uncomfortable for some, it is important to know what it is, and what you must do to report it or to prevent yourself from being an unwitting harasser – regardless of whether your company has 25,000 employees - or 25 – or 5.


Recently, I encountered an employee, named “Eddie” who was extremely upset and felt that his manager had it out for him. He explained that the problems with his manager started five years ago when he asked for some “young girl’s” number because he wanted to sleep with her. The female he was referring to was, at the time, his co-worker. He asked for her phone number on two occasions and she refused. She reported the incident to Eddie’s manager and he was disciplined.  The employee felt that it was unfair punishment. Eddie admitted it wasn’t the first or last time he asked for someone’s number at the organization. He said it was “normal,” the ladies were flattered, and nothing was wrong with it. Usually I have a pretty good poker face, but I must admit, my eyes were bugging out of my head listening to this employee. I calmly explained to Eddie that he could have been fired for what he did and that it also constituted sexual harassment. Eddie was quite shocked and taken aback. I explained to him that everything you might do outside of the office isn’t permitted inside of it, and that the first “no” he heard should’ve been the last.


The United States' Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) defines workplace sexual harassment as "unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature constitute sexual harassment when this conduct explicitly or implicitly affects an individual's employment, unreasonably interferes with an individual's work performance, or creates an intimidating, hostile, or offensive work environment” (EEOC). Sexual Harassment in the workplace violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. It can be verbal or physical. The harassment doesn’t have to be sexual in nature. It is illegal to harass a man in the workplace by making offensive comments about men in general. The law doesn’t prohibit simple teasing, offhand comments, or isolated incidents that are not very serious. The harasser can be the victim's supervisor, a supervisor in another area, a co-worker, or someone who is not an employee of the employer, such as a client or customer.


The first thing that most people must understand is that we come to work to work. While it is important to have some socialization, we are all hired to do a job.  No one should be subjected to sexual harassment or harassment in general. If you feel that you have been subjected to sexual harassment, immediately report it to your supervisor, department head or human resources department. 


William J. White

NAAAHR New Jersey Legal Advisor


May 01, 2018

Many people assume that you automatically receive unemployment benefits once you are terminated from your position. That’s not exactly the case. Recently I was involved in an unemployment hearing with a separated employee named Martin. Martin was terminated for tardiness. He had received several disciplinary actions for being tardy and absent over his employment with us.

When Martin filed his original claim for unemployment, it was denied for simple misconduct. He appealed that decision. My employer fights most unemployment claims. In this case, we had an obligation to fight his appeal since it was for severe misconduct. The telephonic appeal hearing lasted well over an hour. Martin’s manager and myself went over the details of Martin’s separation with the Unemployment Appeals Examiner. We went over his disciplinary actions and the hourly work policy. Martin’s plea was based on his personal issues outside of work. He was having childcare issues and trouble with his car. We additionally explained that we gave Martin a schedule change to assist with his personal issues.  The Appeals Examiner refused to listen to the testimony concerning his personal problems. She wanted to focus on the details around his separation and what he did to avoid it. He couldn’t understand why this information was not relevant.

Martin ended up losing his appeal. He appealed to the Board of Review in the hope that they would take his personal issues into consideration. The appeal was not upheld. Many people cannot understand how hard it can be to win an unemployment claim. Here is what you need to know:

  • To be eligible for unemployment benefits, you must have worked at least 20 base weeks in covered employment or you must have earned $8,500. For claims filed in 2018, the minimum base week amount is $169. These wages must have been earned during a 52-week period that is called a base year.

  • You must be out of work through no fault of your own to qualify for unemployment benefits.

    • Layoffs: If you were laid off, lost your job in a reduction-in-force (RIF), or got "downsized" for economic reasons, you will meet this requirement.

  • Firing: If you were fired because you lacked the skills to perform the job or simply weren't a good fit, you won’t necessarily be barred from receiving benefits. However, if your actions rise to the level of “misconduct,” you will not be eligible for unemployment. New Jersey law distinguishes among three different types of misconduct:

  • ·         Simple misconduct: when an employee’s actions go against the employer’s best interests, without a prior written warning.

·         Severe misconduct: when an employee engages in more serious offenses, after a written warning.

·         Gross misconduct: when an employee’s actions qualify as criminal acts under New Jersey law.

  • For simple misconduct, an individual is barred from receiving unemployment for seven weeks from the date of termination. For severe and gross misconduct, individuals are disqualified from receiving benefits until they establish employment with another employer for a certain time period, and meet additional earnings requirements.

  • Quitting:  If you quit your job, you won't be eligible for unemployment benefits unless you had good cause. In general, good cause means that your reason for leaving the position was job-related and was so compelling that you had no other choice than to leave.

Only about 23 percent of unemployed workers receive unemployment benefits. Unemployment benefits are not guaranteed. While filing for unemployment is a necessity for most, make certain you are working on developing yourself for your next career move while you are out of work.

William J. White

NAAAHR New Jersey Legal Advisor

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ACA: Tracking the Moving Target

Understanding what has changed and what has not changed about the ACA is crucial to managing your health plan compliance in 2017 and beyond.  What else will change, and when, may be a moving target for some time to come.

Join experts from HUB International and Jackson Lewis P.C. for a lively discussion to get the latest updates on:

  • Surviving employer and plan obligations under ACA

  • Complying with retooled elements of ACA

  • Status of repeal and replace legislation and what to keep an eye on

  • Explore how House passage of the American Health Care Act (AHCA) may ultimately change ACA

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