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What to Do if Sexually Harassed at Work: A Guide by Moshes Law Legal Firm

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.

Sexual harassment is unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature. It can create a hostile work environment and make coming to work difficult or even impossible. 

1 in 3 women have experienced sexual harassment in the workplace according to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). A recent study suggests 60% of LGBTQ+ workers have also faced harassment.

Taking action protects you, stops the harassment, and improves the workplace for everyone. 

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If you need legal help with sexually harassment at work, set up a FREE consultation today.

Recognizing Sexual Harassment in NYC

Sexual harassment is unwelcome verbal, written, or physical conduct of a sexual nature. It can be directed at you or someone else, and it can happen once or repeatedly. Here’s the key: it must be unwelcome.

1. Types of Sexual Harassment:

  • Unwanted sexual advances: This includes requests for sexual favors, propositions, or pressure for a relationship.
  • Offensive remarks about your sex: This could be about your body, appearance, or sexual orientation.
  • Sexual jokes, stories, or gestures: These can create a hostile environment even if not directly aimed at you.
  • Lewd comments or propositions: This can include anything from sexual innuendo to threats or demands.
  • Unwanted physical contact: This includes touching, groping, or any other physical assault.

2. Harmless vs. Harassment:

The key difference is whether the behavior is unwelcome. A friendly compliment might be okay, but if it makes you feel uncomfortable and you ask them to stop, it becomes harassment.

3. Importance of Documenting Incidents:

If you experience harassment, keep a record!  Here’s what to document:

  • Date, time, and location: When and where did the incident occur?
  • Details of the incident: What exactly happened? Were there witnesses?
  • Your reaction: How did you feel and what did you say or do?

This documentation can be crucial if you decide to file a complaint.

Steps to Take if You’re Being Sexually Harassed

Sexual harassment is illegal in New York City. It can happen anywhere, including at work, on public transportation, or even on the street. Here’s what you can do if you experience it:

1. When Harassment Happens:

  • Stay Calm & Assertive:  Take a deep breath and try to stay composed.
  • Set Boundaries:  Make it clear you don’t welcome the behavior. Say something like, “Stop that” or “I find that offensive.”
  • Document Incidents:  Keep a record of what happened. Write down the date, time, location, details of the incident, and any witnesses present. This helps build a stronger case.

2. Reporting to Your Employer (if applicable):

  • Who to Report To:  Find out who handles sexual harassment complaints at your workplace. It could be a supervisor, HR department, or a designated employee.
  • How to Report:  You can report verbally or in writing. If verbal, follow up with a written report (email or letter) for documentation.
  • Follow-Up:  Ask for a copy of the company’s sexual harassment policy and confirmation that your complaint is being investigated.

3. Important Statistics:

  • According to the EEOC, roughly 25% of women and 8% of men experience unwanted sexual advances in the workplace.
  • NYC Human Rights Commission data shows that in 2022, they received over 4,000 complaints of sexual harassment.

Remember: You are not alone. There are resources available to help you through this. Don’t hesitate to reach out and report sexual harassment.

Legal Recourse for Victims of Sexual Harassment

In New York, sexual harassment is addressed under both federal and state laws. The legal framework primarily revolves around Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 at the federal level and the New York State Human Rights Law (NYSHRL) at the state level.

1. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964: Title VII prohibits employment discrimination based on various factors, including sex. Sexual harassment is considered a form of sex discrimination under this law. Title VII applies to employers with 15 or more employees, including state and local governments.

2. New York State Human Rights Law (NYSHRL): This law provides protections against sexual harassment in both employment and non-employment settings. It covers employers of all sizes, including state and local governments, regardless of the number of employees. NYSHRL is often more expensive than Title VII and offers additional protections.

  • Expanded Definition: NYSHRL defines sexual harassment broadly and includes unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature, including advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct. It covers both same-sex and opposite-sex harassment.
  • Employer Liability: Employers can be held liable for the actions of their employees, including supervisors and managers, if they knew or should have known about the harassment and failed to take prompt and appropriate corrective action.
  • Retaliation Protections: NYSHRL prohibits retaliation against individuals who oppose sexual harassment or participate in investigations or legal proceedings related to sexual harassment complaints.

3. Local Laws and Ordinances: Some cities and counties in New York may have additional laws and ordinances that provide further protections against sexual harassment. For example, New York City has its own Human Rights Law, which is one of the most comprehensive anti-discrimination laws in the country.

4. Remedies and Damages: Remedies for sexual harassment may include monetary damages, injunctive relief (such as reinstatement or changes in workplace policies), and attorney’s fees. The specific remedies available depend on the nature and severity of the harassment and the applicable legal framework.

5. Reporting and Enforcement: Sexual harassment complaints can be filed with various agencies, including the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) at the federal level and the New York State Division of Human Rights (DHR) at the state level. These agencies investigate complaints, mediate disputes, and may pursue legal action against employers found to have violated the law.

Conclusion

New York State and New York City have strong laws in place to prevent sexual harassment. These laws apply to a broad range of workplaces, regardless of size or industry. If you are experiencing sexual harassment, speak out by documenting all pertinent details, including dates, times, witnesses, and the specific incidents endured.

If you’re facing sexual harassment at work, don’t hesitate to contact Moshes Law, P.C. Our skilled team is ready to offer valuable guidance and support in navigating these tough situations. Reach out to us today to learn more about how we can help you.

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