Sexual Harassment

You have a right to work without being subjected to offensive sexual conduct. You have to work for a living, but you don’t have to suffer sexual harassment. Sexual harassment can be perpetrated by someone of your sex or the opposite sex. The EEOC receives more than 10,000 charges of work place sexual harassment per year. In addition, many workers suffer sexual harassment without making complaints, and the problem continues to be pervasive and serious.

The law recognizes two general kinds of sexual harassment.

The first is where someone, usually someone with supervisory authority, is requiring you to accede to sexual advances as in order for you to obtain a benefit to which you may be entitled (for example, overtime assignments) or in order for you to avoid adverse consequences, such as disciplinary action or firing.

The second is where you are subjected to a hostile environment based on sex, which can involve ridicule, slurs, intimidation, gender stereotyping abuse, and unwanted touching, regardless of whether adverse actions will or can be imposed on you in the work place. Of course, we are not talking about a mere violation of etiquette, but conduct which a reasonable person would find hostile. Other factors which the courts look to is how pervasive, threatening or humiliating the conduct is, and whether it interferes with your work performance. Under the New York City Human Rights Law, frequency or pervasiveness is not required as to liability for the employer, but may effect the amount of damages.

If you are subjected to sexual harassment, you should let your harasser know that the conduct is unwelcome. Many employees suffer in silence in the hope of preserving their jobs, but that sometimes exacerbates the situation.

You should also report the harassment to your supervisor, the owner of the company, or the person designated in the employment handbook to receive complaints of harassment. And you should put your complaint in writing, so there is no question as to whether or when you put in a complaint. The employer is then supposed to make an investigation and take appropriate action to deal with the sexual harassment. This could mean that the harasser is fired, disciplined or removed from your work place. You should not have to be moved to a less favorable job location because you are the victim of sexual harassment.

Often sexual harassers try to make sure that no one observes them sexually harassing you, but they often subject more than one person to their unwanted advances, and this may corroborate their conduct in your situation. Obviously, it is helpful if there are witnesses to offensive conduct which you have suffered.

If your employer does not respond in good faith to your complaints, but subjects you to retaliation, the best response is not to respond in kind by striking back. Instead don’t let them get under your skin (and that may be difficult), keep doing your job, and put in a further complaint that you have been subjected to retaliation because of your complaint.

Contact us online or call us at (212) 949-1001 if you think that your employer's harmful actions stem from sexual harassment, and we use our more than 25 years of experience to help you resolve the matter by negotiation or by going to court in the State of New York or New York City.
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