Can Men Be Victims of Sexual Harassment? Understanding the Often Overlooked Issue

By Douglas Lipsky

Sexual harassment in the workplace is often portrayed as a challenge faced predominantly by women, but this narrative overlooks a significant portion of victims: men. The reality is that men, too, can and do experience sexual harassment, though their stories are frequently untold and overshadowed by societal norms and stereotypes. 

This oversight not only perpetuates a gender-biased understanding of harassment but also leaves many male victims without a voice. As we discuss this issue, we must broaden our perspective and acknowledge the diverse range of experiences and challenges faced in the fight against workplace harassment.

Debunking Myths and Acknowledging Reality

Contrary to popular belief, sexual harassment is not an issue that only affects women. In reality, men also face this form of harassment, though it’s often underreported and overlooked. Recent statistics illustrate this point:

  • 43% of men have faced sexual harassment in their lives.
  • The majority of harassed workers don’t file formal charges, with 99.8% choosing not to report formally.

These figures indicate that sexual harassment, including that experienced by men, is a widespread and deeply rooted issue. 

An anecdotal example can further illustrate this: A male employee at a tech company shared how he was subjected to unwelcome sexual comments from a colleague during an office party. Initially, he laughed it off, but over time, the comments became more frequent and invasive, profoundly affecting his comfort and performance at work. This story highlights the often-hidden reality of male victims in the workplace and the need to address it with equal seriousness and support​​.

Legal Protections For All Genders

Legal protections against sexual harassment are designed to cover individuals of all genders, ensuring a fair and safe workplace for everyone. At the federal level, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits discrimination based on sex, which includes sexual harassment, in workplaces with 15 or more employees. It applies to both men and women, protecting them from unwanted sexual advances or conduct.

In New York, both state and city laws provide protections against sexual harassment for all genders:

  • The New York State Human Rights Law prohibits sexual harassment in all workplaces, regardless of the number of employees. This includes protection for men against harassment and is broader than federal law, which applies only to workplaces with 15 or more employees.
  • The New York City Human Rights Law provides even more extensive protections. It’s known for being one of the most progressive anti-discrimination laws in the nation, offering broader definitions and more vigorous enforcement mechanisms compared to state law.

The difference between these laws lies in their scope and applicability, with New York City laws offering more comprehensive protection than New York State laws. Understanding these distinctions is crucial for employees in New York who might face sexual harassment.

Recognizing The Signs of Harassment Against Men

Recognizing the signs of sexual harassment against men is crucial for addressing and preventing it:

  • Unwanted Sexual Advances: This can include physical touching, suggestive gestures, or unwelcome sexual propositions.
  • Inappropriate Comments or Jokes: Remarks about a man’s appearance, sex life, or making sexual jokes directed at him.
  • Sending Unwanted Communications: This could be in the form of sexually explicit emails, texts, or social media messages.

Men may experience these forms of harassment in ways that are both overt and subtle. It’s essential for both men and their coworkers to be aware of these signs and understand that such behavior is unacceptable. Recognizing these signs is the first step toward creating a safer and more respectful workplace for everyone.

Reporting Harassment

When reporting sexual harassment, it’s important to follow a structured approach to ensure the issue is addressed effectively:

  • Report to HR or Management: As soon as possible, report the incident to human resources or a direct supervisor. Be clear and concise about what happened, providing any evidence you might have.
  • Document the Incident: Record the harassment details, including dates, times, and the nature of the incidents. Documentation is crucial for substantiating your claim.
  • Follow-up: After reporting, stay in communication with HR or management to monitor the progress of your complaint.

Remember, reporting sexual harassment is a brave step towards not only protecting yourself but also contributing to a safer workplace. It’s essential to use the resources available and stand up against such misconduct.

How An Attorney Can Help

An employment attorney can be invaluable when dealing with sexual harassment. At Lipsky Lowe, we offer:

  • Legal Guidance: We clearly understand your legal rights and options.
  • Case Evaluation: Our attorneys evaluate the strength of your case and advise on the best course of action.
  • Representation: If necessary, we will represent you in legal proceedings, advocating for a fair resolution on your behalf.

Seeking legal assistance can make a significant difference in effectively addressing sexual harassment, especially in complicated or severe cases.

Representing Men In Sexual Harassment Claims

Sexual harassment against men in the workplace is a significant issue that deserves attention and action. Recognizing, addressing, and legally challenging such behavior is essential for maintaining a safe and respectful work environment for everyone. 

If you or someone you know is facing sexual harassment,  Lipsky Lowe is here to guide you through the process, ensuring your rights are protected. Reach out to us for support and legal counsel in these challenging situations.

About the Author
Douglas Lipsky is a co-founding partner of Lipsky Lowe LLP. He has extensive experience in all areas of employment law, including discrimination, sexual harassment, hostile work environment, retaliation, wrongful discharge, breach of contract, unpaid overtime, and unpaid tips. He also represents clients in complex wage and hour claims, including collective actions under the federal Fair Labor Standards Act and class actions under the laws of many different states. If you have questions about this article, contact Douglas today.