Sexual harassment encompasses any unwelcome sexual advances or other conduct in the workplace that creates an offensive, intimidating or hostile work environment. Although sexual harassment most often takes the form of men harassing women, both men and women-whether they are gay or straight-can be victims of it.
Fortunately, many laws protect employees from sexual harassment. At the federal level, sexual harassment is illegal under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. Additionally, it is illegal under New York State law and the New York City Human Rights Law.
What constitutes sexual harassment?
In general, two types of behavior qualify as actionable sexual harassment under the law:
· Quid pro quo: occurs when your boss or someone else in power makes an employment benefit, such as a promotion, raise or other favorable treatment, contingent on your performance of a sexual favor. Additionally, it may occur if you are disciplined or punished for refusing to perform the favor.
· Hostile work environment: occurs when there are frequent and unwanted sexual comments, advances or requests that progress to the point where a reasonable person would find the work environment objectionable.
What you should do if faced with harassment
If you believe that you are being sexually harassed, it is recommended that you take the following steps:
· Tell the harasser to stop. Although this can be a difficult thing to do, it is important for you to communicate to your harasser that their behavior is unwelcome.
· File a written complaint. If the harassing behavior continues, your next step should be to file a written complaint with your manager or human resources department. Under the New York City Human Rights Law, there is no particular way you need to word the complaint; however, it should make it clear that you feel you are being sexually harassed. Under the law, it is illegal for your employer to retaliate against you (e.g. firing or punishing you) because you filed a complaint.
· Document your claim. As time passes, it is easy to forget important events and details. Because of this, it is helpful for your case to keep a diary at home documenting the specific details about all instances of harassment, including what happened, who was involved, where it took place and whether there were any witnesses.
· Do not quit your job. Quitting your job may compromise your claim. Before you take this step, speak with the experienced employment law attorneys at Serrins Fisher, LLP. It is important to do this as soon as possible, because delaying may cause your claim to be barred by the statute of limitations. For example, you must bring an administrative action against your employer within one year of the incident. Federal claims must be brought within 300 days; state and city claims must be brought within three (3) years in a court of law. Our attorneys will advise you of your available legal remedies and work to aggressively protect your interests.