Many employees look forward to casual Fridays when they can dress more casually than usual. However, casual Fridays can go from casual to offensive when employers and co-workers engage in sexual harassment. Employees may use the more casual environment to comment about other co-workers’ dress in a sexual or sexist way.
In New York City, employees have the legal right to work without the fear of being sexually harassed by employers, co-workers, clients, or vendors. Employees have a right to be free from sexual harassment every day of the week, including casual Fridays. If you’ve been sexually harassed on casual Friday due to your appearance, you may be entitled to compensation through a sexual harassment claim. Contact the experienced New York City employment attorneys at Lipsky Lowe LLP today to schedule your initial consultation.
Sexual Harassment Risks on Casual Fridays
Many New York City offices have become more casual than ever. Some offices have beer cart Fridays, casual Fridays, or allow employees to work from home part-time or all the time. Anytime an office environment begins to mix business with pleasure, they provide more opportunities for employees to cross personal boundaries. In some cases, when employees feel more relaxed and like they’re in a personal setting, they may be more tempted to make sexual comments or gestures to co-workers.
When Is a Comment Considered Sexual Harassment?
On casual Fridays, employees are encouraged to dress more informally. Casual Fridays often go beyond dress, however. Employees often enjoy a more casual, personalized working environment on Fridays. The more relaxed employees are, the less on-guard they are to stop engaging in sexual harassment.
Federal, state, and city laws prohibit sexual harassment in the workplace every day of the week. You may be wondering when comments made on casual Friday are considered sexual harassment. Requests for sexual favors and unwelcome sexual advances can be considered sexual harassment. Additionally, verbal harassment and offensive remarks about an employee’s sex also constitute sexual harassment. There are four key identifies of sexual harassment on casual Fridays and every other workday:
- Unwelcome conduct
- Based on the victim’s biological sex, sexual orientation, or gender identity
- The conduct negatively impacts working conditions
- The conduct is severe or pervasive
Sexual harassment on casual Fridays isn’t limited to sexually explicit comments. Sexual harassment can also include visual, written, or nonverbal comments of a sexual nature. With more people working from home than ever, there can be a tendency to feel like casual Friday is happening every day. We’ve seen an increase in sexual harassment among co-workers who are working from home. Coworkers may send sexually explicit text messages or emails.
Using “Jeans Day” As an Opportunity for Sexual Harassment
When people dress down, some employees may be tempted to make sexualized remarks about their appearance or engage in suggestive gestures. Jerry Richardson, the Panthers owner, has been accused of making sexually explicit comments on casual Fridays. He implemented a casual Friday policy that allowed and even encouraged people to wear jeans to work.
After instituting “Jeans Day,” he allegedly made the rounds to stare at and comment on female employees’ jeans. He’s allegedly said, “asked women to turn around so he could admire their backsides.” He also commented to female coworkers asking them to show him how they “wiggle to get those jeans up.” Others reported that commented, saying, “I bet you had to lay down on your bed to fit into those jeans,” and “Did you step into those jeans or did you have to jump into them?”
These comments are a perfect example of someone using the casual Friday environment to engage in sexual harassment. Richardson allegedly made a habit of walking around the office and making sexual comments about females’ bodies and clothing choices. The conduct was unwelcome and based on the employees’ biological sex, and it appears that the conduct was pervasive or severe.
Other Examples of Sexual Harassment on Casual Fridays
Comments made about an employee’s clothing choices can become sexual harassment when they are pervasive and unwelcome. Sexual harassment takes many other forms on casual Friday, however. Many modern offices have adopted a much more casual culture. Cutback management structures have resulted in many company cultures becoming more laid-back. In these laid-back management environments, determining what is appropriate and what is considered inappropriate sexual harassment can become more difficult.
Identifying what constitutes sexual harassment can be challenging in a more relaxed environment. As a result, many victims of sexual harassment do not bring a claim against their sexual harasser. They may assume that since the environment is more casual, the comments are appropriate. However, the same legal prohibition against sexual harassment applies to casual workplaces. Some examples of sexual harassment that are more likely to occur on casual Friday include the following:
- Sending inappropriate text messages to a co-worker after happy hour on Friday
- Sending a string of inappropriate text messages to a co-worker in the middle of the night
- Sending crude text messages or Snapchat photos in the lunchroom
- Repeatedly commenting on another co-worker’s casual Friday dress
- Using another co-worker’s outfit to make gender-based comments
- Repeatedly complimenting on another’s attire after being asked to stop
- Repeatedly asking another co-worker to get drinks on Friday after work
Contact a Casual Friday Sexual Harassment Lawyer Today
Have you been the victim of sexual harassment on casual Friday or in an extremely casual workplace? If so, we recommend Consulting with one of our experienced sexual harassment lawyers. At Lipsky Lowe LLP, we have helped many New York city employees file successful claims against their employer for sexual harassment. Contact us today to learn how we can help you protect your rights.