Woman sitting with employment employee

New York Workplace Sexual Harassment Hotline Up and Running

By Douglas Lipsky

Victims of sexual harassment in New York State now have access to a telephone hotline (800-HARASS-3) to report workplace harassment. The hotline, staffed by pro bono lawyers experienced in counseling harassment victims, is not a substitute for filing an official complaint or seeking legal counsel. If you have experienced harassment in your workplace, talk to a sexual harassment lawyer today.

The Backdrop

In March 2022, Governor Kathy Hochul signed legislation amending the New York State Human Rights Law (NYSHRL) to establish a direct hotline to the New York State Division of Human Rights (NYSDHR). The hotline (800-HARASS-3) went live in late July; however, individuals intending to file a complaint with the NYSDHR must follow existing procedures.

The amendment requires the agency to work with the Department of Labor to ensure that notices about harassment employers must post or provide employees with information about the hotline. In addition to workplace postings, employers must revise policies and handbooks to inform employees of the hotline and its provision of free legal advice and counsel.

Why This Matters

New York State continues to beef up its workplace harassment laws in the wake of the #MeToo movement’s revelations of sexual harassment in entertainment, politics, and corporate boardrooms. While the hotline provides a forum for aggrieved employees, the extent of the legal advice and counsel available is unclear. Notably, volunteer attorneys on the hotline cannot solicit individuals who contact the hotline for further representation.

What Is Sexual Harassment?

Sexual harassment is an illegal form of sex-based discrimination. It may involve unwanted sexual advances or demands from a supervisor or punishment for refusing a sexual advance (quid or quo harassment) or offensive comments or conducts by anyone in the workplace that create an abusive, offensive, or hostile work environment. Examples of workplace harassment include:

  • An employer making a job offer dependent on agreeing to sexual demands 
  • A supervisor making unwanted sexual advances toward a staff member
  • Anyone making offensive comments about a person’s gender
  • Inappropriate jokes about sexual acts or sexual orientation

Women are more likely to be targets of sexual harassment than other similarly situated employees. At the same time, harassment can impact anyone in the workplace, regardless of gender, sexual orientation, or gender identity. 

What Are My Rights?

Under the NYSHRL, victims of sexual harassment can file a lawsuit without pursuing an administrative complaint with the NYSDHR). In a successful claim, you can recover damages such as lost wages (e.g back pay and front pay), reputational harm, and emotional distress. And your employer cannot legally retaliate against you for complaining about harassment or exercising your legal rights. 

The Takeaway

Whether New York’s sexual harassment hotline will help to curb harassment in the workplace remains to be seen. In the meantime, an experienced sexual harassment attorney can help you fight back and recover just compensation. Get in touch with our office today.

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.