Being sexually harassed at work is frightening. Although victims are often reluctant to come forward out of fear of being fired, it’s the only way to stop harassment in the workplace. If the sexual misconduct continues, then it’s time to call a dedicated employment lawyer to help with sexual harassment claims.
At Lipsky Lowe LLP, we help employees throughout New York fight back against sexual harassment. When you consult with us, we will listen intently to your story, explain your rights, and explore all of your options. We understand your concerns about losing your job and damage to your reputation and will address those concerns by providing you with compassionate, effective representation.
Above all, we believe that no one should put up with sexual harassment in the workplace and harassers must be held to account. Contact our Manhattan office today for a free evaluation of your case.
What Are Sexual Harassment Claims?
Sexual harassment is an unlawful form of sex-based discrimination under federal, state, and local law, including:
- Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII)
- New York State Human Rights Law (NYSHRL)
- New York City Human Rights Law (NYCHRL)
In short, it is illegal to harass an employee or job applicant because of that person’s gender. While you can pursue a claim under Title VII, this federal law only applies to employers with 15 or more employees. Moreover, it is necessary to file a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) before filing a lawsuit.
The New York State and New York City Human Rights Law applies to all employers, regardless of how many employees, and allow you to pursue litigation without first making an administrative complaint. Also, the NYCHRL only requires you to show that you were treated less well than other employees. Despite these legal protections, employers sometimes vigorously defend against these claims, which makes it crucial to have an experienced New York City sexual harassment lawyer at your side.
Types of Sexual Harassment
There are two main forms of sexual harassment – “quid pro quo” (this for that) sexual harassment and a hostile work environment:
Quid Pro Quo Sexual Harassment
This form of harassment occurs when someone in a position of authority makes sexual demands in exchange for a benefit of employment. For example, a hiring manager who demands sexual favors from a candidate as a condition of employment may be responsible for quid pro quo harassment. Similarly, a supervisor who makes unwanted sexual advances toward a subordinate in the office or at a holiday party is also said to have engaged in this form of harassment. Finally, firing an employee who rejects a sexual advance is also considered quid pro quo harassment.
Hostile Work Environment
Comments, conduct, or displays of a sexual nature that a reasonable person believes are abusive or offensive can create a hostile work environment. This includes sexual jokes, comments about a person’s sex life or appearance, inappropriate communications (e.g. emails, text messages, chats) by anyone in the workplace – supervisors, coworkers, vendors, clients, customers. Harassment need not be of a sexual nature, however, and can include offensive remarks about a person’s sex. For example, it is illegal to harass a woman by making offensive comments about women in general.
Whether you have been harassed at work by a supervisor, coworker, or third party, our attorneys will leverage their legal knowledge and trial skills to protect your rights and help you fight back.
Sexual Harassment Statistics
Even though sexual harassment is illegal, it is a persistent problem in New York workplaces. According to a recent report by the ILR School at Cornell University:
- 1 in 10 adult workers reported experiencing quid pro quo harassment at some point in their careers.
- Workplace sexual harassment not only impacts women but men as well.
- While 12.2 percent of women polled reported quid pro quo sexual harassment at work, 9.5 percent (nearly one in 10) also reported being harassed.
- People of color were more likely to experience quid pro quo sexual harassment than their non-Hispanic white counterparts. 13.9 percent of people of color and those of Hispanic origin reported being harassed, compared to 8.5 percent of non-Hispanic whites.
- More than 80 percent of people responding think that elected officials, as well as business, union, and other community leaders, should do more to address sexual harassment in the workplace.
These statistics are alarming but also highlight the growing public awareness of workplace harassment. By working with an experienced sexual harassment lawyer, you can hold the offender accountable and recover just compensation.
Examples of Sexual Harassment
Sexual harassment can include unwelcome advances, requests for sexual favors, or comments or conduct of a sexual nature. Both the harasser and the victim can be either a woman or a man and same-sex harassment is not uncommon. Although simple teasing, offhand comments, or isolated incidents that are not very serious may not rise to the level of harassment, examples of unlawful sexual harassment include:
- Making conditions of employment or advancement dependent on sexual favors
- Requests for sexual favors
- Offensive comments of a sexual nature, including jokes referring to sexual acts or sexual orientation
- Unlawful touching
- Unwanted physical contact
- Unwelcome sexual advances
- Discussing sexual relations at work
- Sending unwanted sexually explicit photos, emails, or text messages
- Gossiping about an employee’s sexual activity
- Exposing oneself or performing sexual acts on oneself
Regardless of how you have been harassed at work, you can trust our legal team to handle your case with the care and diligence it deserves. When you work with us, we will provide you with trustworthy advice and choose the best course of action.
Sexual Harassment in the Virtual Workplace
Many businesses in New York and around the country transitioned to remote work at the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic and have yet to fully reopen their offices. In any event, the hybrid model seems to be the preference for many employees, but they are not immune to sexual harassment in the virtual workplace.
The use of videoconferencing and other remote technologies allow employees to work from home, however, these devices open the door to sexual harassment. At the same time, workplace harassment has always had an online component.
Virtual sexual harassment can involve a coworker sending offensive comments of a sexual nature via email or text message or making sexually lewd remarks during a videoconference, which may constitute a hostile work environment. Similarly, quid pro quo harassment can occur if a supervisor refuses to promote an employee unless he or she exchanges lewd photos or text messages.
In any event, employers in New York are legally required to provide their employees with a work environment free from sexual harassment and this includes the virtual workplace. Businesses that allow their employees to work remotely must have clearly defined policies prohibiting virtual sexual harassment. If you have been subjected to sexual harassment in the virtual workplace, our attorneys are here to help protect your rights.
Who Can Be Held Liable For Sexual Harassment?
If you have been sexually harassed at work by a supervisor, coworker, or third party, you may have a valid claim against your employer. According to the EEOC, an employer can be held strictly liable for supervisor sexual harassment regardless of whether the employer knew about it.
In addition, an employer can be held vicariously liable for harassment by non-supervisory employees, or non-employees over whom it has control (e.g. independent contractors or customers), that creates a hostile work environment if the employer (1) knew or should have known about the harassment and (2) failed to take prompt and appropriate corrective action.
Depending on the circumstances, you may also be able to pursue a claim against the offender, such as a company executive or a vendor or supplier that harassed you while on the company’s premises. Given the challenges of pursuing a sexual harassment claim, it is crucial to have the informed representation our firm provides.
Steps You Should Take If You Are Being Sexually Harassed
If you are being subjected to unwanted sexual advances or comments of a sexual nature, the first thing to do is to let the harasser know that his or her conduct is offensive and must stop. But doing this is never easy, especially if the harasser is your direct supervisor or has threatened you in any way.
So, it is critically important to follow your employer’s procedure for reporting sexual harassment. This may involve reporting the harassment to a manager or supervisor or to human resources personnel. If you make a verbal complaint, you should also follow up with an email or memo to document your complaint. It will also be helpful to record instances of sexual harassment by jotting down the date and a description of the harasser’s offensive conduct or comments.
Taking these steps will be critically important if you proceed with a sexual harassment lawsuit. You should know that you now have 3 years to file a sexual harassment claim under New York State and New York City law.
Sexual Harassment and Workplace Retaliation
Although taking legal action against an employer can be intimidating, you cannot be legally retaliated against for complaining about harassment or exercising a legal right. Workplace retaliation occurs when an employer takes an adverse employment action against an employee, such as:
- Salary reductions
- Reprimand or warnings
- Unwarranted negative performance reviews
If you have been punished in any way for complaining about sexual harassment in the workplace, you have a right to file a retaliation lawsuit against your employer.
How Lipsky Lowe Can Help You
If you have been the victim of sexual harassment, our employment lawyers will provide you with the informed representation you need and the personal attention you deserve. We have a demonstrated track record of success in negotiating and litigating sexual harassment claims. Once you become our client, we will handle all the details, including:
- Conducting a thorough investigation
- Identifying and interviewing witnesses, including the alleged harasser
- Obtaining and reviewing personnel records for evidence of prior sexual misconduct
- Taking over communications with your employer and their attorneys
- Negotiating a fair and just settlement
- Filing a sexual harassment lawsuit, if necessary
While employment-related disputes can often be resolved through settlement negotiations, our trial lawyers are fully prepared to litigate to achieve the best possible outcome.
Damages We Will Fight For
Knowing that no two sexual harassment claims are the same, we will tailor our approach to the facts and circumstances of your case. Depending on the circumstances, you may be awarded damages such as:
- Back pay
- Front pay
- Lost benefits, bonuses, commissions, and vacation pay
- Emotional distress
- Reputational harm
- Reimbursement for counseling
- Attorneys’ fees and court costs
Backpay is typically awarded when an employer terminates an employee for complaining about sexual harassment. If your employer knew about the harassment and failed to take corrective action, you may also be awarded punitive damages. These damages are intended to punish your employer for tolerating sexual harassment and deter other businesses from not preventing workplace harassment.
Sexual harassment often causes emotional distress. While no amount of money can undo what has happened, you are able to recover money to compensate for this. The amount awarded depends on the severity of the emotional distress. For example, individuals who are actively seeking therapy for the harassment will most likely be awarded more than those who are not in therapy. We will do everything necessary to get you the most for the distress you have suffered. This may include having an independent mental health expert examine you and opine on your mental health status.
Finally, the court may award “equitable remedies” by ordering your employer to take a specific action, such as reinstating your position if you were terminated. You can trust our legal team to stand by every step of the way and make sure your rights and your reputation are protected.
Contact Our New York City Sexual Harassment Claims Lawyer Today!
At Lipsky Lowe, we are committed to helping employees fight back against sexual harassment and holding employers accountable. We understand that taking legal action against an employer is never easy, but it is the best way to protect your employment rights. Standing up for your rights may also encourage other victims in the workplace to come forward.
Remember, the laws in New York allow you to recover attorneys’ fees, so you will not have any out-of-pocket legal costs. The sooner you contact our office, the sooner we can start working on your claim.
Lipsky Lowe LLP is located in New York City, New York, and services the sexual harassment victims of New York City, Brooklyn, Queens, Staten Island, and the Bronx.