Sexual harassment is alarmingly pervasive in workplaces across the country – it even happens at the White House and by powerful politicians. Data shows that 38% of female workers and 13% of male workers have been subjected to some form of sexual harassment by their coworkers or by their employers at the workplace.
Despite the fact that there are strict regulations and laws in place at the state as well as federal level to protect workers against sexual harassment, it still remains a persistent problem in our workplaces – primarily because many workers are worried that reporting workplace sexual harassment can affect their careers.
At Levine & Blit, we believe that everyone has the right to work and earn a living with dignity. If you are a victim of workplace sexual harassment or discrimination, we can protect your rights and help you get justice. We have more than 100 years of combined legal experience in fighting workplace sexual harassment and discrimination. To find out how we can help you, contact us today and talk to one of our proven New York sexual harassment attorneys. This is someone who’s been through the legal battlefields before and knows how to survive an assortment of attacks.
What Constitutes Workplace Sexual Harassment?
Sexual harassment at the workplace can be broadly divided into two types – quid pro quo harassment and hostile work environment.
Quid Pro Quo Harassment
It involves asking for sexual favors in return for a work-related benefit. For example, if a supervisor offers to promote or provide any other work-related benefit to an employee in return for sexual favors, it can be considered quid pro quo sexual harassment. Similarly, if a supervisor asks for sexual favors from an employee by threatening to demote or terminate them, it can be considered quid pro quo sexual harassment as well.
Hostile Work Environment
It involves creating a hostile environment for an employee at the workplace by repeatedly subjecting them to verbal and/or physical sexual harassment.
Laws against Sexual Harassment and Sex Discrimination
- Title VII of the Civil Rights Act offers a wide range of protections for workers against sexual harassment and discrimination at the workplace. It prohibits harassment based on sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, and pregnancy at the workplace. It also prohibits employers from discriminating against their employees or treating them differently due to their sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, and pregnancy.
- The Equal Pay Act prohibits employers from paying unequal wages to employees based on their sex.
- The Fair Housing Act prohibits landlords and housing providers from sexually harassing or discriminating against potential tenants based on their sex, race, religion, familial status, disability, or national origin.
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act and the Equal Pay Act are enforced by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). The Fair Housing Act is enforced by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).
How to Recognize Sexual Harassment at Your Workplace?
Sexual harassment in the workplace can be blatant or subtle. Knowing what constitutes sexual harassment can help you recognize the signs and take steps to protect yourself before things go too far.
Given below are some examples of inappropriate conduct that can be considered sexual harassment.
- Repeatedly commenting about your appearance and the way you dress
- Making sexually charged comments, innuendos, and jokes
- Commenting about your appearance or making sexually suggestive comments about you to other workers
- Constantly flirting with you
- Asking you about your sex life (in private or in front of other employees)
- Telling you about their sex life
- Sending you dirty jokes and sexually suggestive emails and text messages
- Giving sexually suggestive gifts
- Making lewd or inappropriate gestures at you
- Sending you sexually explicit pictures and video clips
- Repeatedly asking you out on a date despite knowing you are not interested
- Stalking you through social media and making offensive or inappropriate comments
- Making sexual advances at you
- Touching, brushing against you, patting you, or hugging you repeatedly
- Blocking your path, leaning into you, or physically preventing you from moving by putting their hands on you
- Asking you for sexual favors
It should be noted that when it comes to sexual harassment, the intent of the person who is harassing you does not matter at all. Even if they believe that what they are doing is normal or appropriate, it can still be considered harassment if it makes you feel uncomfortable or intimidated.
For example, if your supervisor or manager pats you on the back whenever they want to appreciate you or congratulate you, and if you feel uncomfortable about it, you have every right to tell them to stop doing it. If they continue to do so despite your request, it can be considered sexual harassment.
More importantly, a person’s conduct towards you does not necessarily have to be of a sexual nature in order to be considered sexual harassment. For example, if a co-worker makes an offensive comment about women, you have the right to tell them that you do not enjoy it – even if the comment was not specifically directed at you. If that person keeps making these offensive comments whenever they are around you, it can be considered harassment as well.
What Constitutes Sex Discrimination in the Workplace?
If your employer treats you unfairly or less favorably compared to other employees due to your sex, it can be considered sex discrimination. Common examples include:
- Paying you a lower wage
- Denying you training and development opportunities
- Denying you benefits, incentives, and favorable working arrangements
- Denying you promotions and pay raises
How Sexual Harassment Can Affect You
Research shows that sexual harassment victims are at risk of developing mental health problems like depression and anxiety. For those who are already dealing with these issues, being subjected to sexual harassment can worsen the symptoms considerably.
In some cases, victims of sexual harassment might be traumatized by what they go through, as a result of which they might develop post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
The abnormally high levels of stress and anxiety caused by sexual harassment can cause a wide range of problems like loss of appetite, loss of sleep, nausea, and muscle aches. It can also lead to chronic health problems like diabetes and hypertension in the long term.
The mental and physical impact of sexual harassment can affect your productivity and output at the workplace, which can have an adverse impact on your career.
Data shows that workplace sexual harassment can also affect the organization as a whole. Constant harassment can create a hostile work environment, where employees might not be able to work cohesively as a unit. It can affect overall productivity and lead to high employee turnover as well.
More importantly, sexual harassment in the workplace can lead to expensive lawsuits, which can cost the organization millions of dollars. Data from the EEOC shows that in 2019, employers in the US paid out more than $68 million in direct settlements to victims of sexual harassment.
Apart from the financial impact, workplace sexual harassment can also negatively impact a business’s brand, which can be detrimental to their growth and success in the long term.
Reporting Sexual Harassment at the Workplace
- First and foremost, you should try and tell the harasser to stop what they are doing. If you are not comfortable with telling them in person, you can send an email to let them know that their behavior and conduct is making you uncomfortable.
- If the harassment continues, file a complaint with your supervisor or someone in the HR department – depending on your company’s sexual harassment complaint policy.
- Save all the evidence (offensive text messages, emails, photos, cards, notes, videos, and anything else that the harasser sends you or shares with you). Keep a journal and make a note of what you are subjected to, who is doing it, how it is affecting you, whom you complained to, and more.
- Contact an experienced New York sexual harassment attorney and find out what your legal options are. The attorney can help you file a complaint with the EEOC or the New York State Division of Human Rights. They can also file a lawsuit against your employer and recover compensatory damages for the harassment you were subjected to.
It should be noted that if you are physically harassed or abused by someone at the workplace, it is no longer a civil issue, but a criminal offense. You should file a complaint against the harasser with the police. Common examples include:
- Groping or touching your private parts
- Forcing you to perform sexual acts
- Acts of sexual violence including sexual assault and abuse
Importance of Sexual Harassment Prevention Training in Workplaces
There are many steps employers can take to prevent sexual harassment in workplaces. These include:
- Implementing a comprehensive prevention of sexual harassment (POSH) policy at the workplace
- Providing sexual harassment prevention training to all employees
- Updating sexual harassment training material regularly to ensure compliance with state and federal laws
- Installing a robust complaining mechanism for sexual harassment-related complaints
- Setting up an internal committee to investigate the complaints and take necessary steps to resolve the issue
- Creating a positive work culture where employees can communicate with their supervisors as well as with each other openly
👉Also read: Find a New York Lawyer For Employment Contracts
Get Legal Help from Our Top-Rated New York Sexual Harassment Lawyers
If you are being sexually harassed or discriminated at work, it is important to raise your voice against it and fight for justice. The accomplished New York sexual harassment lawyers at Levine & Blit are ready to help you in your right against workplace sexual harassment.
We bring more than 100 years of combined legal experience to the table and have a track record of winning cases against some of the biggest employers in the country. We will stand by your side, hold your harasser and other parties accountable, and take all possible steps to make sure you get the justice and the compensation you deserve.