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What to do if you are being sexually harassed at work in New York?


Your questions about sexual harassment in the workplace, answered

What to do if you are being sexually harassed at work?

If you are being sexually harassed at work, take these steps to protect yourself:

  • Start taking notes about the harassment. Be as specific as possible, noting the time and place of each incident, what the harasser said or did, and the names of witnesses to the harassment.
  • Check your company’s employee handbook for a sexual harassment policy, and follow the procedures outlined.
  • Make it clear to the harasser that the conduct is unwelcome, and keep records that show you did.
  • Contact your supervisor or human resources department and put your complaints in writing.
  • Keep doing a good job at work. Make copies of your job evaluations and evidence of positive feedback, to protect yourself from retaliation.
  • Create a sexual harassment log, with all of your complaints and notes about the harassment. Keep a copy at home.
  • Seek support from your friends and family. Harassment is stressful, and you may feel alone or isolated. A mental health professional can also help.
  • If your company does not stop the harassment, or retaliates against you, contact a sexual harassment lawyer to pursue your legal remedies.

What constitutes a hostile work environment?

A hostile work environment occurs when inappropriate comments or behavior make people feel uncomfortable in their workplace, affecting their ability to do their job. Federal, state, and local laws define a hostile work environment differently. Under federal and New York state law, the hostile conduct must be “severe or pervasive” to create a hostile workplace. New York City uses a lower standard, which defines the harassment as more than a “petty slight” or “trivial inconvenience.”

Verbal sexual harassment such as inappropriate sexual comments or sexual innuendos can create a hostile workplace.

What is unlawful harassment in the workplace?

In the workplace, unlawful harassment includes unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical harassment of a sexual nature. Offensive remarks about a person’s sex are also considered unlawful harassment. Similarly, comments or actions that create a hostile work environment violate the law. In New York City, the New York State Human Rights Law and the New York City Human Rights Law protect workers from unlawful harassment in the workplace.

What constitutes harassment in New York City?

New York City provides stronger sexual harassment protections for the workplace than any other area. NYC harassment laws cover offensive remarks about a coworker’s sex, verbal harassment, and hostile work environments. Federal and state laws require harassment to be “severe or pervasive” to create a hostile work environment. New York City laws state that a hostile workplace can be created by behavior that exceeds a “petty slight” or “trivial inconvenience.”

NYC harassment laws also provides stronger protections. For example, the Stop Sexual Harassment in NYC Act, signed into law in May 2018, covers all employees in New York City, regardless of the size of their employer, and gives victims of harassment up to three years to file a claim.

What standard is used by the courts to determine if a behavior is offensive?

Courts follow the law to decide whether someone crosses the line into offensive behavior. Under federal and New York state sexual harassment law, for example, harassment must be “severe or pervasive” to qualify as a hostile work environment. The laws in New York City use a more lenient definition of a hostile work environment, which can be created by behavior that is more than a “petty slight” or “trivial inconvenience.”

Courts also consider the impact of behavior when determining if it meets the legal definition of sexual harassment. Some conduct, like sexual assault or obscene graffiti on your desk, is so offensive that it is obviously sexual harassment. However, even compliments and gifts can constitute sexual harassment if they are unwelcome. If you are the victim of harassment, keeping records about the harassment and witnesses can help prove sexual harassment to a court.

What to do about sexual harassment?

If you being sexually harassed at work, you can contact a sexual harassment lawyer for a free consultation. You may be entitled to compensatory damages, punitive damages, back pay, and other financial settlements.

You can also read more about your sexual harassment rights.

Sexual Harassment Rights, Laws, and Potential Damages

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