The New York sexual harassment lawyers at The Sanders Firm have been fighting for the rights of victims of workplace misconduct for over 45 years. We understand that sexual harassment can not only leave victims feeling helpless, but that when it happens in the workplace it can raise worries about job security and financial stability. If someone’s harassing behavior towards you has crossed the line, we urge you to speak with a NY labor lawyer to discuss whether the conduct is unlawful and the best way to combat it.
Sexual harassment is a violation of both state and federal laws, each with their own rules and procedures. We skillfully navigate both sets of laws while maintaining a compassionate understanding of our clients’ vulnerable position. If you have been sexually harassed in the workplace, you have every right under the law to fight back.
Don’t let feelings of shame and frustration keep you from taking full advantage of your legal rights, and forcing responsible parties to be accountable for their misconduct. Call the NY labor attorneys at The Sanders Firm today for a confidential, free-of-charge consultation about your case.
What is sexual harassment?
Sexual harassment is a type of illegal sex discrimination. It can happen in schools, businesses or other places of public accommodation, or quite commonly, in the workplace.
Sexual harassment consists of unwanted sexual conduct and can include, for example:
- Verbal or physical sexual advances
- Inappropriate comments or jokes
- Explicit displays of photographs
Sexual harassment can be committed by anyone who comes into regular contact with a victim. In the workplace, this may be a boss or fellow employee, a client, or even a third-party vendor.
The aggressors are not only men and the victims are not only women. Today the courts recognize that women can be harassers and men can be victims. They also recognize that sexual harassment can be inflicted between members of the same sex.
How do I know if behavior in the workplace is sexual harassment?
According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the occasional rude comment is not illegal.
Offensive behavior crosses the line in two main ways:
- Tolerating the behavior is made a condition of employment. This is known as quid pro quo harassment. An example is a supervisor who threatens to fire or withhold a promotion from an employee unless or she participates unwanted physical acts.
- The behavior is so extreme or unrelenting as to make the workplace unbearable. This is referred to as a hostile work environment claim and includes situations like that of an employee who refuses to remove a display of cartoons mocking the other sex or a business vendor who repeatedly comments that a secretary’s skirts are not short enough.
Sexual harassment is prohibited by both state and federal laws. The federal Civil Rights Act at Section 703 of Title VII considers it an unlawful employment practice. State statutes generally forbid it under their laws governing fair employment practices. For example, New York adds protection against this treatment in the New York State Human Rights Law.
What to do if you are being sexually harassed at work
There are steps to follow before you can or should file a lawsuit for sexual harassment. First, document the offensive incidents, as well as any steps you take and the responses you receive. Your notes from the time that the events occur will be taken more seriously than your recounting from memory after the fact.
Next, complain to the source of the harassment and work your way up, if necessary.
How to complain about sexual harassment:
- Tell the harasser to stop. Sexual harassment is only actionable if it is unwanted and this establishes that the acts are, indeed, unwelcome. In many cases, this will be enough and the harassment will stop.
- Complain to the boss. Read the company handbook or personnel manual to find out if there is a complaint procedure. If not, go to human resources or a supervisor to make a complaint. You need to alert the company and give it a chance to stop the problem; if you don’t, a court can decide against you if you ultimately file a lawsuit. If you are afraid of any sort of retaliatory action by the company, get copies of your performance evaluations and any other important personnel documents before making the complaint.
- File a complaint with the EEOC. This federal agency enforces Title VII and you cannot file a federal harassment lawsuit unless you first alert the EEOC and allow it to investigate. Alternatively, find out if there is a comparable state government agency with a similar complaint procedure. The New York Division of Human Rights offers an internal complaint procedure but it is not mandatory to use it before filing a lawsuit in state court.
How long do I have to file a sexual harassment claim?
Under the federal statute, a victim has 180 days from the offensive conduct to file a claim. Under New York state law, the claim must be filed within one year.
Unfair retaliation for sexual harassment claim
Unfortunately employees who face sexual harassment are sometimes victimized a second time by unfair treatment by the companies who should be protecting them.
Consequences of retaliation for making a sexual harassment claim can include:
- Job loss – This can be direct and obvious, as when a boss fires an employee for not succumbing to sexual advances. It can also be less direct but suspicious, like a firing under the pretext of some other cause after the victim makes a complaint or a forced resignation
- Job downgrade – An employee who complaints about harassing behavior is passed up for promotions and plum assignments, demoted, or moved to a less desirable position.
Both state and federal law make retaliation for a sexual harassment claim illegal. If you suspect you are being punished in the workplace for protecting yourself, be sure to talk to a lawyer to find out what your rights are.
NY sexual harassment lawyers at The Sanders Firm can help
If you believe you may be a victim of sexual harassment, call The Sanders Firm for a free consultation at 1-888-660-3714. Our skilled and compassionate lawyers will help you determine whether filing a sexual harassment lawsuit is best for you.
- New York State Human Rights Law, http://www.dhr.ny.gov/law
- EEOC, Sexual Harassment, http://www.eeoc.gov/laws/types/sexual_harassment.cfm
- EEOC, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, http://www.eeoc.gov/laws/statutes/titlevii.cfm