Even with city, state and federal laws that are designed to protect employees from workplace harassment, sexual harassment remains a widespread problem in workplaces in New York and throughout the U.S. In many cases, victims of sexual harassment don't know where to turn for help, or they fear that filing a complaint or taking legal action will result in retaliation.
Earlier this year, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission heard testimony from a National Women's Law Center representative who told the commission that most cases of sexual harassment go unreported. It is important to understand, though, that if you are being harassed by a co-worker, supervisor or a third-party, the law is on your side, and an employment lawyer can listen to your story and explain your legal options for justice.
Two types of sexual harassment are recognized under the law: harassment that results in a hostile work environment and quid pro quo harassment.
If someone in your workplace makes unwanted sexual advances toward you, then you may have a hostile work environment claim on the basis of sex or gender. You may have such a claim even if your employer hasn't demoted or fired you.
If someone in your workplace asks you for sexual favors in exchange for any kind of employment benefit, including a promotion, a raise or the job itself, then you may have a quid pro quo harassment claim.
It is also important for employees in New York to understand that workplace retaliation is prohibited under New York City, New York State and federal employment laws. That means you should not have to fear being fired or demoted because you report or complain about sexual harassment. Retaliation could also take the form of a negative employment reference, an unreasonably increased workload, or continued harassment.
For more examples of sexual harassment claims, please see Serrins Fisher LLP's New York sexual harassment overview.