Although New York prides itself on being one of the most progressive states in the U.S, cases of sexual harassment still occur at an alarming rate. Every employee, irrespective of their designation, is entitled to the rights and protection under the state’s anti-discrimination laws and anti-sexual harassment laws.
However, most employees aren’t aware of their rights against offensive sexual advances and don’t know what they can do about it. In the wake of increasing cases of sexual assault, we have created this detailed article. If you have been subjected to sexual harassment, read on to learn your rights and what you can do in New York. We’ll even discuss the complaint procedures you can use to report them.
What is Sexual Harassment: The Legal Definition
Sexual harassment is any unwelcome sexual behavior that’s humiliating, offensive, and intimidating. It can be in any form of sexual nature, either verbal, physical, or written, and can happen online or in person.
Regardless of gender, anybody can experience sexual harassment, and it can happen at work, school, university, or even at home. As per the New York law, offensive remarks about a person’s sex can also be considered a form of sexual harassment.
In a nutshell, it is a form of sex discrimination, and state and federal laws protect every citizen from this type of harassment.
What Constitutes Sexual Harassment?
Generally, three broad categories cover almost everything constituted in sexual harassment.
Unwanted Sexual Contact
Any unwelcome physical contact may qualify as sexual harassment. For example, suppose person A touches, hugs, or brushes up against person B without their consent. In that case, it may be considered unwanted touching, which falls into the unwanted sexual contact category and could constitute sexual harassment by the law.
Hostile Work Environment
It includes offensive conduct, behavior, sexual comments, and sexually explicit communications. Everything that can create a hostile work environment for someone can be considered sexual harassment.
Quid Pro Quo
Suppose a senior employee demands sexual favors or advances from an employee below them in return for a job, promotion, grade, raise, or anything else. In that case, it qualifies as sexual harassment at the workplace.
Besides these three broad categories, some other types of unwelcome acts are considered sexual harassment. These are the following:
Requests for Dates
The law qualifies unwelcome and repeated requests for a date as sexual harassment. For example, if employee A sends a date request to employee B in return for benefits such as promotions, grades, and more, it is illegal as per New York law.
Criminal Sexual Contact
There are multiple laws around criminal sexual contact, but it also falls under sexual harassment in the workplace. Physical assault and rape are punishable by the law, and the victim can file a lawsuit against the harasser.
It includes sexually suggestive text messages, emails, and other forms of virtual communication. Suppose employee A sends employee B some sexist messages or texts asking for sexual favors directly or indirectly; it is considered sexual harassment.
It may be considered harassment if someone gives sexual gifts to their colleagues or someone without their consent or wish.
When employee A threatens employee B, sweet talks, or pressurizes them to perform sexual advances and favors, the New York law may treat it as sexual harassment.
Some Concrete Examples of Sexual Harassment
- Asking a person (s) about their sexual or romance history.
- Cat-calling or whistling
- Making sexual remarks about an individual’s body, appearance, or clothing
- Sharing pornography or offensive imagery
- Sending inappropriate messages via email, text, or social media
- Offering disparaging comments about an individual’s sexual orientation.
Ordinary socializing among the co-workers, such as horseplay or flirting, may not be considered sexual harassment in some cases. It would be great to speak to expert workplace discrimination attorneys: Levine and Blit to know if you have been a victim of sexual abuse and what to do next.
What Constitutes Sexual Harassment in the Workplace?
Workplace sexual harassment may vary depending on the New York state laws, but generally, it creates a hostile work environment through unwelcome physical contact and sexualized behavior.
The harasser doesn’t necessarily have to be the boss or in a superior position, but they can be a co-worker, a vendor, or even a subordinate. Anyone may be found guilty of sexual harassment in the workplace if they directly or indirectly demand physical favors in exchange for a job offer, promotion, and other employment benefits an employee is entitled to, as per the New York state law.
It even includes demanding and pressuring the employees to go on a date, which may not include sexual favors or demands directly.
Any type of sexual harassment, either written, verbal or physical, is illegal, and you can take action against it. Speak to an experienced attorney and get assistance to stand your case up to get the justice you deserve.
Pervasive or Severe Sexual Harassment in New York
It’s essential to understand whether the behavior an individual has endured is actionable. Also, it is critical to understand if the situation is severe enough or sufficient to file a lawsuit. Two tests can determine the severity of the behavior, which then categorize it into multiple categories of sexual harassment.
When the harassment occurs for a while and affects your work life and emotional well-being, it falls under pervasive harassment. This type of sexual harassment comes under the hostile work environment clause.
It may include a one-off incident such as rape, physical assault, being fired for refusing sexual favors, or receiving a cut in the pay or other employee benefits for rebuffing sexual come-ons from anyone, including the supervisors, co-workers, or other people.
Both types of harassment are punishable by the court of law, and you can file a lawsuit against the offender with the help of a New York attorney.
Whom Can Sexual Harassment Affect?
When discussing sexual harassment in New York, most people think of a woman being harassed by a male supervisor or boss. While this is usually the case, it can affect anyone within a company or a workplace.
Here are a few examples of who can be a victim of sexual harassment.
- Women can be sexually harassed at work by other women.
- Men can be harassed by other men.
- Men can be harassed by women.
- Seniors can sexually harass juniors.
- An individual can be harassed by their co-workers.
- The harassment or inappropriate behavior could occur between a subordinate or a co-worker.
- An individual can be harassed by someone outside the company, such as a vendor or other people working for the company.
Surprising Sexual Harassment and Assault Statistics
- A sexual assault occurs every 68 seconds in the U.S.
- 9% of male and 19% of female rape survivors said that the assault had caused them to lose time from work.
- In more than 80% of workplace sexual assaults and rapes, females are the victims.
- 8% rape victims said that it happened at the workplace.
(Source of data: NSVRC.org)
What to do About Sexual Harassment, And How to Report it?
As per the New York state law, sexual harassment in any form is illegal. No one deserves to be sexually harassed; if someone has harassed you, you should take action against it.
Most people don’t know how to take this forward and whom to contact to report what has happened. If you have been sexually harassed, here are a few things you need to do immediately.
Confront the Offender (But be Careful)
The first step to stopping the harassment is talking to the offender. You can tell them that you are well aware of your rights, and they should stop doing such things to you. However, if you don’t feel safe around that person, we suggest not confronting them.
Sexual harassment isn’t something to deal with on your own, and it would be great if you could tell someone about it. Talk to your co-workers or anyone you can trust. You can even speak to Human Resources (HR) or your managers to get help.
The person you tell about the sexual harassment can also serve as evidence if you decide to take things to the appropriate government agency.
Keep a diary, and write down everything that has occurred so you can present the facts whenever required. Also, the written evidence will be helpful when reporting sexual harassment to the higher authorities.
If the harasser has sent you unwelcome messages, or emails, you should save them immediately. This evidence will be helpful when filing sexual harassment complaints.
Talk to An Attorney and File a Complaint
You need to contact EEO and OEO to file a complaint against the harasser, and you should hire an attorney. The attorney will help you with the right acts to strengthen the case.
How to Report Sexual Harassment, and Whom to Report it to?
A victim must contact the Equal Employment Opportunity Counselor (EEO) to report sexual harassment. It has two steps:
- Pre-complaint processing
- Formal complaint
If you are a victim, you must contact an EEO Counselor before filing a formal sexual harassment complaint. This help resolves the matter informally and without filing a complaint.
- The victim needs to contact an EEO Counselor of that area within 45 days from the event date (when the discrimination happened). The Director of OEO (Office of Equal Opportunities) may extend this deadline if the individual proves they weren’t notified of the time limit.
- Next, the EEO Counselor will advise you in writing about your rights and responsibilities, such as the duty to mitigate damages.
- The EEO Counselor will help you resolve the matter informally through counseling or traditional methods such as the RESOLVE Program.
- You will be interviewed within 30 days of the counseling. Additionally, if you select to participate in ADR, the counselor may extend the date to 60 days.
- If you’re not satisfied with the outcome, the counselor will notify you in writing about your rights to file a complaint and the appropriate official to contact.
- A formal complaint must be filed with the Director, OEO. You should file the complaint within 15 days of the receipt of the notice to file a complaint from the counselor.
- You need to lodge a formal complaint with the help of an attorney that explains everything about the case, such as the action that forms the basis of the complaint.
- The Director, OEO, acknowledges in writing about receiving a formal complaint about sexual harassment from you or the aggrieved individual. The acknowledgment also advises the complainant that the commission will conduct an unbiased and appropriate investigation within the specified time mentioned in the notice.
What Happens Next?
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEO) will investigate the case based on the details explained by you in the complaint. The commission should get back to you within the specified timeframe. Depending on the case, the commission may ask for more details, or they can send a notice to the harasser for explanations.
At Levine and Blit, we take care of all the legal work; hence, you don’t have to go through mental stress. Our experienced attorneys have helped several victims of sexual harassment get justice, and we are ready to assist you as well. Call us today to discuss your case, and file a complaint against the harasser (s).
What to Expect from Your Complaint of Sexual Harassment Against Someone?
As per the Civil Rights Act, there may be several outcomes from a complaint of sexual harassment, and the punishment may vary depending on the severity of the case and other similar factors. Below are a few important things you should know about.
Can You File a Lawsuit Against the Harasser?
Yes, you can file a lawsuit against the harasser with the help of an attorney. The lawyer will help you create a solid ground based on the evidence and other relevant details provided by you. You are entitled to get the justice and benefits you deserve.
For example, if you have to leave your workplace because of the harassment, you may expect to be awarded compensation for the money that you lost due to the harassment.
Can You Get That Person Fired?
It may depend on the severity of the case and the sexual harassment policies enforced by the company or organization you work in.
What is Your Employer’s Responsibility?
As per the New York state law, employers must ensure that their employees get a safe working environment.
Also, your employer should listen to you and help you by resolving the problem. Another responsibility of the employer is to enforce several training programs to teach its employees about sexual harassment and how to handle it.
Don’t Suffer More Due to Sexual Harassment, and Talk to Levine And Blit About Your Case
Levine and Blit is a team of experienced New York City sexual harassment attorneys that can fight for your justice. Whatever circumstances or situation you are in, we stand ready to evaluate your case and provide you with the legal help you need to get justice.
Contact us at 212-967-3000 for a free case evaluation, and set up an appointment with New York’s leading hostile work environment harassment attorneys.