Two female coworkers mocking another coworker

We’ve all witnessed an offensive, off-handed comment at work. We may shrug it off as a one-time occurrence. What happens when a person witnesses multiple signs that someone is sexually harassing a co-worker? At first, many co-workers mind their own business. However, when a co-worker notices signs of sexual harassment a second or third time, it can become obvious that unlawful sexual harassment is happening. What kind of action can a co-worker take?

5 Signs Someone Is Sexually Harassing a Co-Worker

It can be challenging to know if someone is sexually harassing your co-worker, but certain signs point to ongoing sexual harassment. Many people are not aware that if they’ve experienced someone else sexually harassing their co-worker, they have rights. Under federal and state law, witnesses to sexual harassment in the workplace can file a sexual harassment claim against their employer. Even if you weren’t directly sexually harassed yourself, you still have a right to file a legal claim. Contact the experienced New York City employment lawyers at Lipsky Lowe LLP to learn more about your rights.

1. You Witness Sexual Behavior in the Workplace

Despite all of the advances women have made in the workplace, some people remain sexist. They refuse to believe that men and women are equal, and they don’t think that women can do the same job as men due to differences they perceive between men and women. Hearing sexist comments can be a sign that someone is sexually harassing your co-worker. Sexist comments include rants about how women are not “cut out” for certain types of jobs. Sexist comments can also include employers or managers stating that they didn’t offer a qualified employee a promotion because of their gender. One off-handed and sexist comment typically isn’t enough to constitute sexual harassment, but continual sexist comments can create an illegal hostile work environment.

2. Inappropriate Online Behavior

Now more than ever, employees are working from home and using online conferencing and forums to communicate. People often let their professional guards down when they’re communicating online, and we’ll make sexually explicit or offensive comments in the workplace forums or on Zoom meetings. You may have seen one of your co-workers sending accidental text messages or emails with inappropriate photos, or requests to communicate with some co-workers in private on social media websites. When online messages and comments fall outside the realm of work-related and professional communication, they may rise to the level of sexual harassment. You and your co-workers should be able to engage with co-workers online without the fear of inappropriate messages and behavior. 

3. An Employee Bullies Co-Workers Using Seniority

At Lipsky Lowe LLP, we’ve helped many New York City employees succeed in sexual harassment claims against their employers. Often, managers or business owners will use their seniority or authority to harass their employees sexually. Bullying lower-level employees can be a sign that your co-worker is being harassed. If you witness your manager frequently threatening your co-worker with being fired for not fulfilling the manager’s demands, sexual harassment could occur. Federal state and local laws prohibit quid pro quo sexual harassment. Quid pro quo is a Latin phrase that means “this for that.”  

When someone in a supervisory position tells a lower-level employee that he must go out on a date or risk being demoted or fired, quid pro quo sexual harassment occurs. Quid pro quo sexual harassment often begins more subtly. For example, a manager may insist that an employee meet him or her for coffee outside of work hours to discuss a work project. The demands could elevate from meeting for coffee to requiring sexual favors to get bonuses or advancements in the company.

4. A Manager Continually Flirts With Your Co-Worker

Constant flirting of a sexual nature is inappropriate in the workplace. When managers or other co-workers continue to flirt with your co-worker, it could be a sign that sexual harassment is taking place. Respectfully asking someone out on a date one time doesn’t rise to the level of sexual harassment. However, when one of your co-workers is constantly flirting with another co-worker who has made it known that he or she isn’t interested in a romantic relationship, the situation can become uncomfortable for everyone involved.

5. Your Co-Worker Constantly Shares Personal Information

Workplaces should remain professional, and as an employee, you should not have to endure explicit sexual stories or photos. When your co-worker regularly shares uncomfortable personal information with you, he or she can cause a hostile work environment. For example, your co-worker may come in on Monday mornings recanting all of the explicit sexual activities they engaged in that weekend. Or, your co-worker may continuously ask you about topics of a personal, sexual nature. In some cases, a co-worker will bring in sexually explicit photos or continually discuss fights, breakups, or sexual details about their relationship with their romantic partner. In all of these scenarios, the co-worker sharing personal information may be creating an unlawful hostile work environment. You and your co-worker may have a right to bring a legal claim against your employer. 

Contact a New York City Sexual Harassment Lawyer Today

If you’ve witnessed sexual harassment at your workplace, it’s essential to speak with an experienced employment lawyer as soon as possible. You must file a claim against your employer within a short time frame, or you risk losing your ability to file a claim. At Lipsky Lowe LLP, we’ve helped many New Yorkers recover compensation from their employers after being exposed to sexual harassment in the workplace. We will help you navigate the claims process from start to finish. Witnesses to sexual harassment have rights under federal and New York law, and we will help you enforce your rights. Contact our New York sexual harassment lawyers today to schedule your initial consultation.