Sexual harassment at work is nothing new; in the past, it was simply considered something that needed to be “dealt with” or was simply brushed aside. Rarely were perpetrators of this kind of behavior penalized in any way. Sometimes they were even lauded by fellow co-workers for their perceived wit and humor.
While this type of environment isn’t as prevalent as it once was, it is shocking to know that sexual harassment in the workplace still occurs. If you are the victim at work, don’t assume that there aren’t legal options available. Depending on the facts of your case, you may be able to bring forward a claim against your employer.
What the Law Says About Sexual Harassment in the Workplace
According to the Equal Opportunity Employment Commission (EEOC), sexual harassment in the workplace violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. This same act is what made discrimination against an employee based on sex, gender, race, religious affiliation, sexual orientation, pregnancy status and disability illegal.
What Does Sexual Harassment Look Like in the Workplace?
Sexual harassment at work can take many different forms. Some instances are subtle enough that they make the victim uncomfortable but can be explained away as an accidental touch when trying to get by in a small hallway or a misunderstood email.
The EEOC defines sexual harassment as:
“Unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature constitute sexual harassment when this conduct explicitly or implicitly affects an individual's employment, unreasonably interferes with an individual's work performance, or creates an intimidating, hostile, or offensive work environment.”
The Commission goes on to give some surprising facts about sexual harassment in the workplace:
- In order for harassment to exist, the conduct by the perpetrator must be unwelcomed by the victim. This means that the victim cannot willingly engage the perpetrator and then claim sexual harassment later.
- There may be more than one victim of harassment. Anyone affected by the harassment, even if they are not the direct target of the harassment, can be considered a victim.
- People traditionally consider men as perpetrators and women as victims. However, the truth is that both males and females can commit harassment or become a victim of it.
Sexual harassment in New York can occur in numerous ways, including but not limited to:
- Suggestive emails or texts, even those that occur after hours or those that are made to your personal email or personal cell phone
- Unwanted physical advances or touching
- Sexual comments made, whether “flattering” or not
- Threats to fire someone if they do not engage in sexual activity of any kind with the perpetrator
Is There a Difference Between Supervisor and Employee Sexual Harassment?
While both are illegal under New York law, sexual harassment cases do differ some when the perpetrator is a supervisor or manager versus when it is a co-worker or another employee.
Employee-to-employee sexual harassment often creates what is called a hostile work environment, and often includes sexual jokes and the display of inappropriate material. However, an employer, manager, or supervisor has the status to engage in quid-pro-quo sexual harassment, where conditions of employment are dependent on the victim submitting to the demands of the manager or supervisor.
For example, an employer can offer an employee a raise or a promotion to another department in exchange for a sexual favor. The employer may threaten the employee’s benefits in some way if he or she says anything about the harassment.
What Kind of Evidence is Needed for a Sexual Harassment Claim?
These claims can be difficult to pursue because often, it’s simply one person’s word against another’s. However, there may be emails, texts, or other people who can bear witness to the actions of the perpetrator, even if the perpetrator is a supervisor. Before you pursue a sexual harassment claim, it’s important to gather as much evidence as possible. This even includes things that you think are unimportant or cannot be used.
What Legal Remedies Are Available?
Many people assume that there isn’t much legal remedy available for these types of claims. This is simply untrue. In New York, when you bring forward a claim and are successful, you may be awarded:
- Compensation for bonuses, raises, and other money you may have missed out on as a result of the harassment
- Issue a cease and desist. In some cases of severe or repeated harassment issues, the person may be terminated or asked to resign from their position
- Compensation for emotional trauma or suffering sustained during the period of harassment
- If the victim was fired in relation to harassment, the court may be able to order that the employee be reinstated to the position
Contact the Law Offices of Christopher Q. Davis Today
Don’t let sexual harassment go unpunished. In New York, you may be able to bring a claim forward against another employee, supervisor, or employer. Bringing a claim forward can stop the harassment and keep it from happening again, even to others.
At the Law Offices of Christopher Q. Davis, we work almost exclusively in employment law and we’ve defended many men and women against sexual harassment in the New York workplace. Don’t hesitate to contact us today for a free case consultation to discuss your needs in detail by calling (646) 430-7930.
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