You have probably seen the news stories about sexual harassment accusations and lawsuits, and you might think that it cannot happen to you. The sexual harassment news stories take place in places like Florida and Los Angeles, where the weather is appropriate for the kinds of work-related social events where it is normal to wear swimwear and other types of revealing clothing. The stories portray the aggressors as fabulously wealthy egomaniacs and the victims as shrinking violets. You might think that these kinds of things could never happen in loudmouth New York, where every entry level worker is armed with an arsenal of withering comebacks with which to respond to unwanted verbal sexual advances and grimy, subway-worn snow boots to kick anyone who dares to try to get physical.
In fact, sexual harassment can happen in any workplace, even here in the Big Apple, and most cases of sexual harassment do not fit the stereotypes. No matter what form it takes, sexual harassment in the workplace is against the law. To find out more, contact the New York City sexual harassment lawyers at HKM Employment Attorneys LLP.
At What Point Do Unpleasant Interactions With Coworkers Become Sexual Harassment?
Harassment means bothering someone intentionally. Sexual harassment is when someone intentionally bothers you because of your gender. Intentionally rudeness and inconsiderate behavior toward coworkers are unprofessional and have no place in the workplace. Someone whose unpleasantness in interpersonal interactions outweighs their abilities at their job may be subject to adverse actions from their employer; treating customers or coworkers disrespectfully is certainly a reason for an employer to evaluate an employee negatively, for example, and it may adversely affect their attempts to get a promotion or even to get their contract renewed.
Sexual harassment is more than that. A coworker’s disrespectful or hostile treatment becomes sexual harassment when they single you out for it, or when they single out all the employees in one gender-related group, such as all the women, all the gay men, or all the women who have children. Sexual harassment can include any of the following actions:
- Derogatory comments about your gender-related characteristic
- Unwanted comments about your physical appearance
- Intrusive questions about your romantic relationships or sexuality
- Unwanted touching
- Sexual advances, propositions, or pressure to date a coworker or work supervisor
As the above examples show, sexual harassment does not always involve physical contact, and it does not always involve a work supervisor pressuring an employee to have a romantic relationship with them. (When a supervisor threatens to get an employee fired if the employee does not date the supervisor, this is called quid pro quo sexual harassment, and it is one of the worst kinds.) The parties to sexual harassment do not even have to be of such sexual orientations that they could theoretically be a couple, such as a straight man and a straight woman or two gay men. In a high-profile case, a graduate student at New York University accused a professor of sexually harassing him; the student is a gay man, and the professor is a lesbian woman. It is sexual harassment if a woman’s female coworkers body shame her and make insulting comments about her relationship status. If it is bad enough to interfere with your ability to do your job, and it is about your gender, then it is sexual harassment.
Sexual Harassment and Employment Discrimination Law in New York City
Employment discrimination laws classify harassment, also known as a hostile work environment, as a type of employment discrimination; discrimination is any unfair treatment based on a protected characteristic of the employee. Since sex, gender, sexual orientation, gender presentation, family status, and pregnancy are protected characteristics, sexual harassment is gender discrimination. (Other protected characteristics include race, religion, age, disability, and citizenship status.) Discrimination is rarely an isolated event, and the harassment is sometimes just one type of discriminatory behavior you experience in the workplace. These are some other examples of actions that count as discrimination when they are based on a protected characteristic:
- Refusal to hire
- Negative performance evaluations
- Denial of promotions and raises
- Unwanted transfers to a different work schedule, location, or set of duties
- Demotion or reduction in pay
- Unnecessary scrutiny of your work
- Termination of employment
- Any of the above in retaliation for you filing an employment discrimination complaint or participating in an investigation into a complaint filed by someone else
How a New York City Sexual Harassment Lawyer Can Help
If you have been a target of sexual harassment at your workplace in New York City, the first step is to contact a New York City employment discrimination lawyer. No matter how bad the sexual harassment is, you cannot file a lawsuit against your employer without first completing the preliminary steps. (If someone at your workplace committed a crime, such as sexual assault or stalking, however, you can press criminal charges immediately.) Before you can file an employment discrimination lawsuit about sexual harassment or any other kind of employment discrimination, you must contact one of the relevant agencies to conduct a preliminary investigation. In New York City, these agencies are the Equal Employment Opportunity Council (EEOC), the New York Division of Human Rights, and the New York Commission on Human Rights. Because these agencies work together, you might have to interact with more than one of them during the course of the investigation. If the agencies decide that you have grounds for an employment discrimination lawsuit, then you have the right to bring your case to court. The best time to get a New York City employment discrimination lawyer involved is before you contact the agencies to start the preliminary investigation.
Contact HKM Employment Attorneys, LLP About Workplace Sexual Harassment in New York City
The New York City employment lawyers at HKM Employment Attorneys, LLP can help you stand up for your rights if you have been a target of sexual harassment at work. Contact the employment lawyers at HKM Employment Attorneys LLP in New York, New York to set up a consultation.