Federal law, New York State law, and New York City law prohibit sexual harassment in the workplace. Under these laws, you are protected against both quid pro quo and hostile work environment forms of sexual harassment in the workplace. You are also protected from being terminated for complaining of sexual harassment.
Quid pro quo harassment occurs when the promise of an employment benefit (i.e. promotion, raise, etc.) or the threat of an “adverse action” (i.e., termination, demotion, etc.) is made contingent on your performance of a sexual favor. A hostile work environment occurs when your work environment is polluted with frequent and unwanted sexual comments, requests or advances that a reasonable person would find objectionable.
If you have been a victim of sexual harassment, you should report it. At the same time, you should be aware of the practical reality that an employer may retaliate against you for reporting sexual harassment, even though retaliation is illegal.
What is retaliation?
In short, it is illegal under federal, New York State and New York City law for employers to retaliate against their employees following allegations of sexual harassment. Specifically, you are protected against retaliation if you:
· Report or file a sexual harassment claim or lawsuit
· Participate in an investigation or lawsuit (e.g. as a witness) concerning an instance of sexual harassment
It is important to note that you are protected from retaliation, even if the claim at issue is later determined to be unfounded, as long as the claim was initially made in good faith.
In general, retaliation occurs when an employer punishes or takes other adverse actions against you because you engaged in either of the protected activities listed above. Examples of adverse actions include:
· Reduction in pay
· Denial of a promotion or raise
· Demotion or undesirable work assignments
· Unjustified negative performance reviews
Contact an attorney
If you have been a victim of sexual harassment, it is normal to be scared to “make waves” with your employer. However, as the law is on your side, you should not let these feelings discourage you from taking action against the offensive and illegal behavior. You should contact the experienced lawyers at Serrins Fisher LLP to help you with the complaint process to ensure that your rights are protected.
If you have already made a complaint and are unsure about whether you have suffered retaliation for complaining, it is also wise to talk it over with the experienced employment law attorneys at Serrins Fisher LLP. We can listen to your situation and advise you of your legal options under New York and federal law.