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By Douglas Lipsky

Sexual harassment remains a pervasive issue in multiple industries in New York, including the financial sector. Despite high-profile lawsuits and public outcry, many individuals still face unwelcome advances, demeaning comments, and career-threatening retaliation. This not only undermines professional environments but also impacts victims’ mental health and career progression. Let’s take a look at sexual harassment with a focus on the financial sector and what you can do about it. 

Sexual Harassment in the Financial Sector

The history of New York City’s financial sector reveals a long-standing struggle with sexual harassment. This challenge persists despite heightened awareness and regulatory efforts. Historically dominated by men, this sector has been notorious for its challenging work environments, particularly for women and minority groups.

Recent statistics indicate a concerning trend in the financial services industry. For example, FTAdviser found that reports of sexual harassment have more than tripled in the past year as employees return to office environments and social interactions increase. 

While there has been a slight decrease in the number of sexual harassment complaints citywide, the financial sector remains a hotbed for such allegations. In FY23, New York City saw a 10 percent decrease in sexual harassment complaints. Yet, the persistently high figures in finance tell a story of ongoing challenges and the critical need for continued vigilance and improvement in workplace cultures​.

Legal Protections Against Workplace Harassment

In New York, employees in the financial sector are protected under federal, state, and city laws prohibiting sexual harassment in the workplace, such as:

  • Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits employment discrimination based on sex, including sexual harassment. While applicable to employers with 15 or more employees, it sets the groundwork for national standards.
  • New York State Human Rights Law offers broader protections than federal law. It prohibits sexual harassment in all workplaces, regardless of the size of the business. It also requires employers to adopt sexual harassment prevention policies and training.
  • New York City Human Rights Law applies to all employers in NYC and provides employees with one of the strongest protections against harassment in the country. It allows for higher compensation in lawsuits compared to state and federal laws.

Additionally, recent updates to state and city laws place greater emphasis on employer compliance by

  • Requiring mandatory annual training requirements for all employees
  • Establishing clear guidelines on what constitutes sexual harassment and the procedures for filing a complaint.

These laws ensure that employees in NYC’s financial sector have significant protections and multiple avenues to address grievances related to sexual harassment.

Challenges in Reporting and Addressing Harassment

Reporting and addressing sexual harassment in the financial sector presents significant challenges that can deter victims from coming forward. Many employees hesitate to report harassment due to fear of professional backlash, such as demotion, isolation by colleagues, or even termination. This fear is compounded in highly competitive environments like finance.

Moreover, the power dynamics in financial institutions often leave junior staff vulnerable. Perpetrators may hold influential positions, making victims feel powerless and less likely to report inappropriate behavior. Even worse, some workplace cultures normalize harassment or discourage complaints. In cases where the organizational culture is not supportive, employees might feel that reporting harassment would be futile.

While Human Resources departments are crucial in handling harassment claims, HR protects the company, not the victim, making employees reluctant to use internal channels to address their concerns. 

Legal Rights and Remedies

Employees in New York City’s financial sector who experience sexual harassment have powerful legal rights and remedies available to them. First, victims can file complaints with state or federal agencies that can investigate the claims and, if warranted, initiate legal action.

Employees also have the right to pursue legal action in civil court. Successful claims may result in compensations for damages, including lost wages, emotional distress, and punitive damages if the harassment was particularly egregious. Remedies can also include reinstatement of employment, promotion, or other necessary actions to restore the victim’s career trajectory. Working with an experienced sexual harassment attorney is the best way to protect your rights, career, and future. 

Fighting Sexual Harassment From Wall Street to Main Street

If you’re experiencing harassment in the financial sector or any other industry in New York, turn to Lipsky Lowe. We’re committed to ensuring your voice is heard, and your workplace rights are protected.

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.