Woman meeting with an employment law attorney

Should I Report Sexual Harassment?

By Douglas Lipsky

Although sexual harassment violates federal, state, and city laws, many victims are reluctant to come forward out of fear of being fired. However, reporting sexual harassment is a crucial first step in fighting back. If you have experienced harassment in your workplace, talk to an experienced employment lawyer. Let’s take a look at how to report and protect yourself from sexual harassment. 

Understanding Sexual Harassment

Generally, sexual harassment comes in two forms – quid pro quo harassment and hostile work environment:

  • Quid pro quo harassment occurs when a supervisor or another person in a position of authority makes sexual demands in exchange for a benefit of employment (e.g. job offer, raise, bonus)
  • Hostile work environment involves offensive conduct, comments, or displays of a sexual nature by anyone in the workplace (supervisors, coworkers, vendors, customers) that create an abusive, threatening, or hostile workplace. 

Either way, sexual harassment is considered an illegal form of gender-based discrimination. Women are the primary targets; however, sexual harassment can impact anyone, regardless of gender, sexual orientation, or gender identity. Whether you have experienced or witnessed workplace harassment, you have a right to report the harasser.

How To Report Sexual Harassment in the Workplace

If you have experienced harassment at work, take the following steps:

Tell the Harasser to Stop

The first step is letting the harasser their conduct is offensive and unwelcome and must stop. If you have concerns about your safety, complain to a supervisor rather than confronting the harasser directly. This step may stop the harassment and help support your claim should you take further legal action. 

Document Your Claim

Next, document the harassment by collecting evidence like offensive emails, text messages, or other communications you receive. Importantly, keep a detailed record of any specific incidents of offensive comments or conduct by noting:

  • The names of everyone involved
  • Where and when the harassment occurred
  • What the harasser did or said
  • How you responded

Be specific about what happened, how it affected you, and how it impacted your job performance. You should also note whether your coworkers witnessed the incidents because they may become part of a sexual harassment investigation.

Follow Your Employer’s Harassment Reporting Procedure

All employers in New York must have procedures for reporting sexual harassment, such as making a formal complaint to a supervisor or human resources personnel. Once you complain about workplace harassment, your employer must investigate the matter. If your employer finds your claim valid, they must take disciplinary action against the harasser, ranging probation and retraining to terminating the harasser. 

When To Contact a Sexual Harassment Lawyer

If you have experienced harassment at work and reported it to your employer and they failed to take corrective action or retaliated against you, that’s the time to call an experienced employment law attorney. An employer that knows, or reasonably should know, about harassment and fails to stop it may be held liable.

You have a right to file a lawsuit to recover monetary damages such as lost wages (back pay, front pay), compensatory damages for emotional distress and reputational harm, reimbursement for counseling, attorney fees, and court costs. No one should put up with sexual harassment. By reporting the harasser, you can protect yourself, begin building a claim, and prevent others from experiencing similar mistreatment.

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.