New York State Sexual Harassment Law

New York City businessman and woman shaking hands after a sexual harassment seminarAlthough New York prides itself on being a progressive state, sexual harassment still occurs at an alarming rate in a number of workplaces. While employees have rights and protections under state and federal anti-harassment laws, enforcing those rights can be daunting. If you have been subjected to unwelcome sexual advances or other forms of sexual harassment on the job, it helps to have an experienced attorney to rely on.

Well-versed in the applicable provisions of the New York State Human Rights Law, Lipsky Lowe LLP routinely handles sexual harassment claims inside or outside of the courtroom. Regardless of the forum, we know how to help you obtain just compensation, whether through litigation, arbitration or mediation. We also provide comprehensive legal services to our business clients in connection with their obligations under state and federal employment laws. Our practice is dedicated to combating all forms of workplace harassment.

How Can I Pursue a Sexual Harassment Claim In New York?

Sexual harassment is considered an unlawful form of sex discrimination under both city, state and federal law. In particular, sexual harassment may involve demands for sex as a condition of employment — or quid pro quo harassment. Another form of harassment, referred to as hostile work environment, involves unwelcome advances, requests for sexual favors, any verbal or physical conduct, written messages or visual displays that affect an individual’s ability to perform his or her job properly because it is so offensive, intimidating, or abusive.

It is worth noting the difference between how claims are handled under city, state and federal law. First, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 applies to employers with 15 or more employers, while the sexual harassment provisions of the New York State Human Rights Law cover all employers. In addition, before filing a lawsuit under Title VII, a claim must first be filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. If the EEOC does not resolve the claim within 6 months, the aggrieved employee can request a “right to sue” letter, and file a lawsuit in federal court.

No such requirement exists under the New York State law. Although a claim may be filed with the state Division of Human Rights, an aggrieved employee can also proceed directly with a lawsuit in state court. If the lawsuit prevails, back pay may be awarded to an employee who was fired, denied a raise or a promotion, or otherwise penalized for filing a sexual harassment complaint. Back pay includes wages, bonuses, paid time off, and the monetary value of benefits such as health insurance and retirement benefits. Depending on the circumstances, compensatory and punitive damages may be awarded while attorneys fees and court costs are also available.

Moreover, an employer cannot take any adverse employment action (e.g. discipline, negative evaluations, issuance of warnings, salary reduction, demotion, or firing) against an employee or files or participates in a sexual harassment claim. Subtle forms of retaliation — changing work shifts or job assignments or hostile attitudes or behavior by managers, supervisors, or coworkers toward someone who has made a complaint — are also prohibited under state and federal law. An employee who is subjected to either form of retaliation may also have grounds for a lawsuit.

It is worth noting that several changes to harassment provisions of the New York State Human Rights Law recently became effective. In particular, employers can now be held liable for sexual harassment of independent contractors and other nonemployees. Additionally, employment agreements can no longer contain mandatory arbitration provisions governing the resolution of sexual harassment claims. Finally, employers with 15 or more employees are required to distribute a written sexual harassment policy to all workers and perform annual sexual harassment training. To ensure your business is complying with these requirements, you are well advised to speak with our experienced employment law attorneys.

New York State Sexual Harassment Attorneys

If you have been subjected to sexual harassment at work, Lipsky Lowe will be the strength in your corner. We understand victims of sexual harassment are often afraid to come forward, fearing the unwanted attention, shame and humiliation. We will offer you compassion, knowledge and the personal attention you deserve. Our legal team will conduct an exhaustive investigation to understand the circumstances surrounding your claim. We will explore all of your options and work tirelessly to help you obtain the compensation you deserve.

Because we are committed to rooting out sexual harassment in the workplace, we also provide advice and counsel to our business clients regarding their rights and responsibilities under Title VII, and the New York State Human Rights Act. If your business is facing a sexual harassment claim, we know how to assert any number of defenses and will work to protect your interests. We can also assist with designing well-conceived policies and procedures to mitigate the occurrence of workplace harassment. Above all, we believe that all employees have a right to a work environment free from sexual harassment. Call our office today or complete the convenient online contact form to set up a consultation.

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