male coworker taking inappropriate picture of female coworker

Despite the widespread claims of workplace sexual harassment that have been reported in the media, there is lingering confusion over what constitutes harassment. While some forms of sexual harassment may be obvious (e.g. inappropriate touching), other types of unlawful conduct are difficult to detect. On the other hand, certain behavior or offhand remarks while obnoxious, may not necessarily be unlawful. Whether you have been the victim of sexual harassment on the job or your business is facing a harassment claim, it is important to understand your rights.

Lipsky Lowe LLP has extensive experience handling sexual harassment claims in New York and New Jersey. We fight tirelessly to protect the rights of sexual harassment victims and work to make sure they receive just compensation. We also represent employers who are facing sexual harassment claims and assist with designing policies and procedures to prevent workplace harassment. When you come to Lipsky Lowe, you can rest assured that our dedicated advocates will guide you in the right direction.

What is Workplace Sexual Harassment?

Workplace sexual harassment is unlawful under federal, state and local laws such as Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the New York State Human Rights Act, the New York City Human Rights Act and the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination.

Generally, two types of harassment exist:

  1. Quid pro quo harassment occurs when a person in a position of authority demands sexual favors as a condition of employment or in return for job benefits such as raises, bonuses, or promotions.
  2. Hostile work environment occurs when an employee is subjected to unwelcome physical, verbal, or visual conduct of a sexual nature that is severe or pervasive enough to alter the victim’s working conditions.

In either case, proving or defending a sexual harassment claim can be complicated. Although quid pro quo harassment seems relatively straightforward, these cases can become a matter of “he said, she said” without sufficient evidence. Similarly, hostile work environment claims hinge on determining the types of behaviors that qualify as harassment.

Nonetheless, specific actions that may constitute sexual harassment include:

  • Repeated comments about an employee’s appearance
  • Commenting on the appearance of others in front of an employee
  • Repeated hugs or other unwanted touching (e.g. a hand on an employee’s back)
  • Discussing one’s sex life in front of an employee
  • Asking an employee about his or her sex life
  • Making sexual jokes
  • Circulating nude or other inappropriate photos of women or men in the workplace
  • Sending sexually suggestive text messages/emails
  • Leaving unwanted gifts of a sexual or romantic nature
  • Spreading sexual rumors about an employee

Under Title VII and the New York State Human Rights Law, to qualify as a hostile work environment, the conduct must be considered offensive by a reasonable person in the same circumstances. The standard is different under the New York City Human Rights Law: the threshold is that you are treated differently because of your gender.

The harassment need not be of a sexual nature to be unlawful, however. Offensive conduct that is based on an employee’s gender (e.g. sexist comments or actions), is also prohibited. As an example, a female employee who is repeatedly left out of important meetings, assigned menial tasks based on gender stereotypes, or told to “act like a lady” may have grounds for a sexual harassment claim.

While women are more likely to experience workplace sexual harassment, men can also be subjected to unwanted, offensive conduct and same-sex harassment is not uncommon. Finally, employers also have an obligation to protect their employees from harassment by third parties such as customers, clients, vendors, business associates and others. In any event, the surest way for victims to enforce their rights or for employers to protect themselves from spurious claims is to work with the right employment law attorney.

What Lipsky Lowe Will Do For You

Whether you have experienced workplace harassment or need to defend your business against sexual harassment claims, our legal team will work tirelessly to protect your interests. We will explain all of your rights, explore every option, and provide you with aggressive legal representation. We have a proven track record of achieving successful outcomes inside or outside of the courtroom.

We realize that victims of sexual harassment often experience lingering humiliation as well as lost opportunities. On the other hand, we also know that unfounded sexual harassment claims against an employer can harm a company’s reputation in the marketplace. With so much at stake, it is crucial to have strength in your corner — the employment law attorneys at Lipsky Lowe, LLP.

Through the years, we have recovered millions of dollars in damages for victims of sexual harassment. At the other end of the spectrum, we have also defended business clients against unfounded claims of harassment, which often arise in unrelated employment disputes. Above all, we are dedicated to eradicating workplace sexual harassment in all its forms. Call our office today or complete the convenient online contact form to set up a consultation.