A study published by EEOC in 2016 disclosed that 75% of people who experience sexual harassment at work fail to bring it up with their bosses, managers, supervisors, or union representatives (source).
The main reason why sexual harassment victims fail to bring this issue up among seniors is the risk of being retaliated at work. Another possible reason is that most people don’t know if they have been or are being sexually harassed.
The New York law states that sexual harassment in any form is illegal, and it protects people’s rights against such unlawful activities.
This article will tell you more about what is considered sexual harassment by the law, how to know if you are a victim, and the right action you should take to get the justice you deserve.
What is Considered “Sexual Harassment” in Terms of the Law?
Sexual harassment is a form of unlawful and illegal sexual discrimination that covers a host of actions, words, and phrases that can lead to an employee or group of employees feeling worried, upset, or frightened to such an extent that it affects their emotional and physical well-being along with impacting their work conditions.
The law defines sexual harassment as “unwelcome physical conduct, or verbal comments about someone’s sexual nature constitute sexual harassment. Also, it could be pervasive or severe and may create a hostile working environment for the affected employees or people“.
The definition also covers a broad range of unwanted behaviors that can be broken down into four major categories: verbal, physical actions, written actions, and non-verbal actions such as visuals.
The word “unwelcome” draws the line between sexual harassment and actions done with one’s consent.
What Constitutes Sexual Harassment?
Another important question is what sexual harassment constitutes! Everyone needs to know what the law qualifies as sexual harassment. Below are a few examples that’ll help you understand sexual harassment better.
Unwanted Sexual Advances or Proportions
- Asking for sexual advances and favors.
- Asking an employee about their romance and sex history.
- Obvious or subtle sexual activities.
Physical Assault of a Sexual Nature
- Unwanted touching repeated hugs and touching other parts of an individual’s body such as their back and chest.
- Sexual battery, rape, molestation, and attempts to commit any of these assaults
Discriminatory or Sexual Displays or publications anywhere in the workplace
- Circulating objectionable photos of a woman or man in or outside of the workplace
Sexually Oriented Gestures or Other Types of Harassment
- Repeated compliments or remarks on an individual’s gender-specific appearance.
- Maxing sexual jokes on someone’s appearance and something they have gone through (such as assault).
- Sending sexually suggesting messages, emails, or images via social media platforms.
- Leaving unwanted gifts for someone of a romantic or sexual nature.
Hostile Actions Taken Against an Individual, such as:
- Destroying or damaging their equipment, tools, or other things affects their performance at the job because they did not agree to give sexual advances.
- They are sabotaging someone’s image by displaying their objectionable photos.
- Yelling, bullying, and name-calling with specific remarks on someone’s gender.
To qualify as sexual harassment, the conduct must be offensive to the employee and any person in similar circumstances.
What Laws Prohibit Sexual Harassment in New York?
The New York Anti-Harassment and Anti-Discrimination Laws protect the employees in the state from harassment or discrimination based on specific protected characteristics, including sexual harassment.
The law protects employees from harassment irrespective of age, race, color, sexual orientation, gender identity, etc. Under New York State law, sexual harassment doesn’t have to be pervasive or severe before it is unlawful.
Previously these laws only covered the employees working in the workplace. Still, after an expansion in 2018, these laws also protect the rights of non-employees such as vendors, contractors, consultants, and more.
The NY Anti-harassment Laws Include:
Harassment in First Degree (Eff.5/24/94, Ch.109, L.1994)
An individual is guilty of harassment in the first degree if they willingly and repeatedly harass another person. For example, suppose an individual engages in the course of conduct by intentionally and repeatedly committing acts. In that case, that can create a sense of fear of physical injury in a person’s mind.
Following a person in or about public places, which may create fear in their mind, is also considered harassment in the first degree. This form of harassment comes under class B misdemeanor.
Harassment in Second Degree (Eff.5/24/94, Ch.109, L.1994)
An individual is guilty of harassment in the second degree if they do the following things with an intent to annoy, harass, or alarm someone:
- Strike, kick, shove or indulge in any other type of unwelcome physical contact with the other person. It also counts as unlawful if the attempt to do any of the same.
- Follow someone in or about public places with the intention to harm them or do anything that can make the other person uncomfortable or anxious.
- Engage in the course of conduct by committing acts that can seriously annoy or alarm another person without a legitimate purpose.
Aggravated Harassment in Second Degree (Eff.11/1/92, Ch.345, L.1992)
An individual is guilty of aggravated harassment in the second degree if they harass, annoy or alarm someone with an intent to disturb or threaten the other person. It is considered aggravated harassment in the second degree if a person:
- Makes a telephonic call or texts someone without a purpose of legitimate communication and asks for unwelcome things such as sexual advances.
- This causes communication to be initiated via different modes of communication with an intention to get the person’s attention or to disturb them because they did not agree to give sexual favors.
- Tries to make physical contact with the other person without their consent, such as trying to touch objectionable parts.
The New York State Law has passed several bills to protect employees and non-employees from sexual harassment and assault. These are a few laws that protect the rights of the workers in the NY State.
You can speak to us to know more about these laws and file a sexual harassment lawsuit against the harasser. Give us a call at 212-967-3000 for a free consultation, and our attorneys at Levine and Blit have extensive experience litigating sexual harassment claims and will fight for your rights.
How Do You Know if You Have Been or Are Being Sexually Harassed?
It may be daunting to determine if a particular behavior constitutes sexual harassment or not, and that’s why most victims fail to raise their voices against it. Some forms of sexual harassment can be so subtle that victims won’t know they are being harassed.
Below we have listed eight signs that you have been or are being sexually harassed by someone:
Comments On Your Physical Appearance Make You Uncomfortable
There is a fine line between complimenting someone’s appearance and sexually harassing statements. While a compliment usually has a good intention, sexually harassing statements have a sexual nature behind them.
If someone comments on your physical appearance, such as talking about specific body parts, it may be considered sexual harassment, and you can take action against it.
Unwelcomed Physical Contact
The most common form of unwanted advances is physical contact. If your boss or supervisor or anyone at the workplace or in public is touching you in an unwelcome manner, this is sexual harassment.
Some common examples of unwanted physical contact include:
- Rubbing shoulders
- Pushing up against each other
If you are unsure about sexual harassment, it would be great to speak to a legal professional. Tell them what’s happening with you, and know if you can file a case against the harasser.
Comments or Jokes About Your Gender or Sexuality
Rather than physical touch and sexual assault, sexual harassment can also be in an indirect form. Comments or jokes about your sexuality and history, such as the people you used to date, can be under the category of sexual harassment.
This behavior can be online, in person, over the phone, by email, or by any other method of communication. If someone is sending you unwanted messages, images, and videos that contain something sexual or are offensive, it is a sign that you are being harassed.
Saying “No” has Consequences
If saying no to a date proposal by your boss is creating issues for you at the workplace, it is sexual harassment. The repercussions could include criticism, demotions, pay cuts, or even more that can affect someone emotionally or physically.
In a situation where someone (an employee or a non-employee) has made it known that they are interested in you, but you have said no to it, and they continue to pursue you, this may be considered sexual harassment.
You Feel Bullied
Being bullied at work can quickly take the form of sexual harassment. If someone in the workplace bullies you for your sexual orientation, choices, and gender, it is a sign that you are being harassed.
Also, if someone, for example, your supervisor, bullies you for going on a date for sexual advances, you can take this to court and sue that person for their behavior.
You Feel Unsafe
If you feel unsafe at the workplace because someone has created an environment of sexual nature, it indicates sexual harassment.
You’ve Become a Victim of Revenge
Everyone needs job security in this era of fierce competition. If you feel that you are a victim of unexplained termination because you said no to sexual favors, it is considered sexual harassment.
Any other type of exclusive or unexplained punishments such as pay cuts, deprivation of employment benefits, and more imposed on you because of saying no to sexual advances are a form of retaliation and qualifies as sexual harassment by the law.
Constant Flirting Without Consent
If your employer or anyone in the workplace continues flirting with you, despite hearing a “no” from you, it may qualify as sexual harassment.
If you have been or are being sexually harassed, you should immediately contact the HRs or other authorities in the workplace. Moreover, if you are unsure about sexual harassment, you can speak to an attorney to know if you are a victim.
We at Levine and Blit are the most-preferred New York City sexual harassment attorneys ready to help you get justice. Talk to us (212-967-3000) about your case, and stop it from happening to you or others.
Sexual Harassment Knows No Boundaries and No Gender
A recent survey conducted by Stop Street Harassment revealed some surprising figures about sexual harassment in the workplace. The surveyors found that 43% of men and 81% of women employees have reported sexual harassment in the workplace at some point in their lives.
Moreover, one of the top three places where sexual harassment and discrimination are most likely to happen is the workplace. There are two legally recognized types of sexual harassment one can experience at the workplace.
Quid Pro Quo
This type of sexual harassment occurs when your supervisor, employer, or someone else offers you employment benefits in return for sexual favors. Quid Pro Quo is an illegal abuse of position and power per New York State law.
If you are a victim of Quid Pro Quo, you can contact a sexual harassment attorney to put a full stop to the harassment and get the employee benefits you deserve.
Hostile Work Environment
It occurs when unwelcome sexual conduct affects an employee’s performance or creates an offensive and hostile work environment for them. Also, if you feel humiliated, depressed, or intimidated because of the sexual behavior of your boss or supervisor, you may be a victim of workplace sexual harassment.
Harassment in any form is illegal, and the law gives you the file a sexual harassment complaint against the harasser. Contact a trusted attorney in New York to discuss your case, and put an end to the harassment or discrimination you have been or are going through.
Contact Levine and Blit to See if You Have a Sexual Harassment Case
Proving sexual harassment, especially when it happens in the workplace, is challenging, and you need the right NYC sexual harassment lawyer by your side.
Levine and Blit have a team of trusted sexual harassment lawyers in New York that can help you determine if you are a victim of sexual harassment while helping you file a sexual harassment claim against the harasser (s).
We are passionate advocates that care about you, and you can trust us with your case. Call us at 212-967-3000 for a free case evaluation, and we have the best sexual harassment lawyers to help you get the justice you deserve.