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Laws Against Sexual Harassment in the Workplace: Understanding Your Rights

Founding Member of Moshes Law, P.C.
During his years of practice, Yuriy has concentrated in litigation and real estate transactions as his areas of expertise.

Introduction

Federal Sexual Harassment Law: Sexual harassment in the workplace is not only a grave issue, but it is also, unfortunately, a common occurrence. Understanding the laws against sexual harassment in the workplace, such as the Federal Sexual Harassment Law, is crucial for both employers and employees. This blog post aims to provide a comprehensive overview of these laws, focusing on federal and New York state legislation.

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What is Sexual Harassment?

Sexual harassment is a form of sex discrimination that violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, a federal sexual harassment law. It includes unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature. The harasser can be the victim’s supervisor, a supervisor in another area, a co-worker, or someone who is not an employee of the employer, such as a client or customer.

Federal Sexual Harassment Law

Title VII, falling under the Federal Sexual Harassment Law, applies to employers with 15 or more employees, including state and local governments. It also applies to employment agencies and labor organizations, as well as to the federal government. Unlawful sexual harassment may occur without economic injury to or discharge of the victim, but the harasser’s conduct must be unwelcome. When investigating allegations of sexual harassment, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) looks at the whole record, including the circumstances and context of the alleged incidents.

New York Sexual Harassment Law

New York State passed comprehensive legislation in 2018 aimed at preventing sexual harassment and gender discrimination at work. The New York Sexual Harassment Law, under the Human Rights Law, now protects victims of harassment, ensuring that harassment does not need to be severe or pervasive to be against the law. Employers must adopt a sexual harassment prevention policy and training that meet or exceed the law’s minimum standards.

Consequences of Sexual Harassment

Sexual harassment can have severe emotional and psychological effects on victims. It can also create a hostile work environment, affecting overall team morale and productivity. Victims may experience financial consequences if the harassment leads to job loss or demotion. Organizations may face legal implications, and their reputation may be severely damaged. They may have to pay compensation to the victims, and in severe cases, they may face legal actions and fines.

How Individuals Can Protect Themselves

Understanding one’s rights is the first step in protecting oneself from sexual harassment. If the conduct is unwelcome, the victim should communicate this clearly to the harasser and use any employer complaint mechanism or grievance system available. It is also important to know that it is unlawful to retaliate against an individual for opposing employment practices that discriminate based on sex or for filing a discrimination charge, testifying, or participating in any way in an investigation, proceeding, or litigation under Title VII, the Federal Sexual Harassment Law.

Employer Responsibilities

Prevention is the best tool to eliminate sexual harassment in the workplace. Employers are encouraged to take steps necessary to prevent sexual harassment from occurring. They should clearly communicate to employees that sexual harassment will not be tolerated. They can do so by providing sexual harassment training to their employees and by establishing an effective complaint or grievance process and taking immediate and appropriate action when an employee complains.

Courses of (Legal) Action

When faced with sexual harassment in the workplace, knowing your legal rights is the first step towards justice. If you’re in New York, taking legal action can be a necessary path to ensure that such behaviors are not tolerated and that your rights are protected.

Taking Legal Action in NY

In New York, victims of sexual harassment can file a complaint with the New York State Division of Human Rights or can file a lawsuit directly in court. The process often involves detailed documentation of the harassment incidents, gathering of evidence, and legal arguments presented in a formal setting. It’s important to note that New York law has extended the statute of limitations for filing a sexual harassment complaint to three years, giving victims more time to take action.

What kind of legal action can one take?

Victims can choose to pursue a civil lawsuit against their employer for failing to prevent or address the harassment. They may also file a complaint with federal or state agencies that enforce laws against sexual harassment, such as the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) or the New York State Division of Human Rights. Legal action can lead to remedies such as compensation for emotional distress, back pay, reinstatement, or requiring the employer to take specific actions to prevent future harassment.

What’s required of those looking to take legal action?

For those looking to take legal action, it’s important to keep detailed records of each incident of harassment. This includes the date, time, place, what was said or done, and any witnesses. Save any related emails, text messages, or other evidence. The evidence you gather will be reviewed thoroughly during the investigation and legal proceedings. The more detailed and concrete your evidence, the stronger your case will be.

Is there a statute of limitations or time limit restrictions?

Yes, there are time limit restrictions. For federal claims, you typically have 180 days from the day the harassment occurred to file a complaint with the EEOC, which falls under the Federal Sexual Harassment Law. In New York, the state has extended the deadline to three years for filing a sexual harassment complaint with the Division of Human Rights, under the New York Sexual Harassment Law.

Who handles workplace sexual harassment cases?

Workplace sexual harassment cases are often handled by employment attorneys who specialize in workplace rights and laws. They can guide you through the complex legal process, help you understand your rights, and advocate for you in court or in proceedings before federal or state agencies.

At Moshes Law, we are dedicated to helping victims of sexual harassment seek justice. With extensive experience in employment law, our team of skilled attorneys is prepared to guide you through every step of the legal process, from gathering evidence to representing you in court or before agencies like the EEOC. If you believe you have been the victim of sexual harassment in the workplace, don’t hesitate to reach out to us for a consultation.

Conclusion

Sexual harassment in the workplace is a serious issue that affects countless individuals and organizations. It’s essential for everyone to be aware of the laws and regulations, such as the Federal Sexual Harassment Law and the New York Sexual Harassment Law, that protect them. If you’re an employer, be proactive in preventing sexual harassment in your workplace, and if you’re an employee, know your rights and what to do if you encounter such behavior. Remember, the fight against sexual harassment is a collective responsibility. If we all play our part, we can create a safe and respectful working environment for everyone.

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