What is required for a New York sexual harassment claim?
It is illegal for a supervisor to pressure you into providing sexual attention and for employers, bosses or co-workers to create a sexually offensive work environment. In addition to the federal and state codes designed to protect workers from enduring this mistreatment, the New York City Human Rights Law offers even broader protections. Unfortunately, even in today’s environment where multimillion-dollar settlements and judgments are leveled against high-profile defendants, it can be extremely difficult for a victimized employee to come forward.
Most people think of sexual harassment only in terms of unwelcome sexual advances, but prohibited conduct includes much more than that. The offensive behavior doesn’t even have to be based on sexual desire. For example, constant remarks about the need to dress or act in a sexy way in order to attract customers can be actionable. Other examples of sexual harassment include:
- Making gender-related comments about a person’s appearance or mannerisms
- Linking employment or job benefits to sexual attention or acts
- Displaying or emailing sexually explicit images
- Unwelcome touching
- Telling offensive sexual jokes or displaying explicit materials
Sexual harassment happens to both men and women, in every industry, and from all walks of life. The perpetrator can be a woman or a man, and the victim does not have to be of the opposite sex. Even if the offensive conduct was directed toward someone else, you might still be able to obtain legal relief.
Quid pro quo and hostile work environment sexual harassment actions
Legal claims alleging sexual harassment are divided into the following two categories:
Quid pro quo sexual harassment — Quid pro quo is a Latin term that translates as “this for that.” As the name implies, this type of harassment includes situations where an employee is asked to submit to unwelcome sexual conduct in exchange for job benefits, such as a promotion, a good review, extra pay or merely continued employment. It also covers instances where the employee is threatened with, or subjected to, an adverse employment action for refusal to comply with a supervisor’s sexual advances.
Hostile work environment — This occurs when sexually offensive workplace behavior is either so severe or pervasive that it creates an environment that is difficult or impossible to work in. Minor isolated offensive remarks might not give rise to a legal claim. However, there are times when the conduct is so extreme that one instance will give rise to a hostile work environment case.
Protecting yourself and getting help
Often, there is no witness to sexual harassment other than the parties involved. If you believe you’ve been victimized in this way, you should document each incident with the date, time and as much information as possible. It is advisable to print, screenshot and/or save any offensive emails, texts or letters. Victims of sexual harassment often fear retaliation by their employers, which is why many may choose not to file a complaint. However, that type of retaliation is illegal, so it is important to report harassment to a supervisor or human resources representative. From there, our employment law attorneys can advise you on the likelihood of a successful Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) claim or lawsuit. In these cases, we aggressively pursue monetary damages and other forms of relief for our clients.
Contact a dedicated New York lawyer for a free consultation on a sexual harassment case
Barasch McGarry Salzman & Penson represents sexual harassment plaintiffs in New York City and the surrounding areas. Please call 888.746.8212 or contact us online to schedule a meeting at our office in Lower Manhattan.