two employees sexually harassing a female coworker

Recognizing the signs that someone is the victim of sexual harassment, whether it’s you or a co-worker, can be difficult. The signs of sexual harassment in the workplace are not always obvious or clear-cut. Sexual harassment can include requests for sexual favors, unwelcome sexual advances, and other types of physical or verbal harassment of a sexual nature. However, sexual harassment may not include sexual comments. Sexual harassment in the workplace can include an offensive comment about someone’s biological sex or gender.

At Lipsky Lowe LLP, we have successfully represented many New York City clients who experienced sexual harassment in the workplace. Have you experienced signs of sexual harassment in the workplace? If so, it’s worth taking the time to speak to a New York City employment lawyer. You may be entitled to compensation under New York’s anti-discrimination laws. Contact the New York sexual harassment attorneys at Lipsky Lowe LLP today to schedule your initial consultation.

5 Signs that Someone Is the Victim of Sexual Harassment

We will discuss common signs that someone is the victim of sexual harassment below.

1. Sexualized Jokes, Language, or Images

One important sign that someone is the victim of sexual harassment involves them being subjected to sexual jokes and language. Sexually explicit remarks, jokes, comments, noises, and gestures are not appropriate in the workplace. When someone is subject to listening to these types of jokes and comments in the workplace, they will become victims of sexual harassment. Being exposed to sexual jokes and language can create a hostile work environment. Sexual harassment isn’t limited to a person’s physical workplace location; it can occur online as well. 

With more people than ever working from home, many employees are experiencing electronic sexual harassment. Sexual harassment can occur during non-work hours, apart from the employee’s physical workplace. Many workplaces expect their employees to communicate through email, online conferences, and phone calls regularly. When one employee sends messages or any other form of electronic communication with sexualized content, they are likely violating workplace policies and anti-harassment laws. If you’ve witnessed signs of sexual harassment in the form of sexual images or messages, we recommend seeking the help of an experienced employment law attorney. 

2. Unwanted Physical Contact

Unwanted physical contact of a sexual nature is a tell-tale sign that someone is the victim of sexual harassment.  Unwanted physical contact can include kissing, hugging, grabbing, patting, pinching, and touching. Sexual assault is the most severe form of unwanted sexual contact in the workplace. Other cases of unwanted physical contact are more challenging to prove and adjudicate. For example, when one employee gives another employee a single side hug, the hug may not be a sign of sexual harassment. However, if the employee continues to give hugs after the recipient has made it known that she does not want to be hugged, the ongoing hugs could be a sign of sexual harassment. What one employee considered an innocent expression of congeniality or friendship might be seen as sexual harassment by another employee.

3. Inappropriate Conduct Based on Sexual Orientation or Gender Identity

Although women have historically been more likely to be victims of workplace sexual harassment than men, sexual harassment can happen to anyone. All employees have a right to work in an environment free from sexual harassment. Unfortunately, one of the key signs of sexual harassment involves one employee targeting other employees based on their gender, gender identity, or sexual orientation.

In New York, workplace sexual harassment includes any type of harassment based on a person’s sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender. When one employee continues to make humiliating, disparaging, demeaning, or rude remarks based on another employee’s gender identity, these comments are a sign that the recipient is a victim of sexual harassment.  Disparaging remarks based on a person’s gender do not only negatively affect the recipient of their remarks. Inappropriate remarks based on gender can affect everybody in the workplace, resulting in a hostile work environment.

4. Retaliation Against Employees Who Report Sexual Harassment

Another sign of sexual harassment in the workplace occurs when employers retaliate against employees who report complaints. Many workplaces have human resources policies that prohibit sexual harassment. Unfortunately, some of these workplaces don’t enforce these policies in any meaningful way. In some cases, when employees report sexual harassment, the human resources department doesn’t take any action to stop the harassment. 

In other cases, the employee’s manager or co-worker will retaliate against employees who report sexual harassment. Under New York law, employees have a right to make complaints about sexual harassment and pursue legal claims against their employers without the fear of retaliation or reprisal. When an employer retaliates against an employee making a complaint by firing the employee or threatening him or her, the employer violates New York law.

5. Unwelcome Requests for Romantic or Sexual Activity

 Employers cannot demand that an employee provide a sexual favor in exchange for a workplace benefit. For example, an employer cannot demand that his employee accompany him on a date by threatening the employee with terminating her employment should she deny the request. Conversely, an employer cannot promise an employee a raise or a promotion in exchange for sexual favors. This type of sexual harassment is called quid pro quo sexual harassment, and it is illegal under federal and state laws. If you have experienced this type of quid pro quo sexual harassment, you likely have a valid legal claim against your employer. 

Contact a New York City Sexual Harassment Attorney Today

If you’ve witnessed any of the signs of sexual harassment mentioned above, you should report the sexual harassment to your employer. If you haven’t done so already, contact a sexual harassment lawyer. The experienced lawyers at Lipsky Lowe LLP have decades of experience obtaining compensation for our clients who’ve experienced sexual harassment in the workplace. Contact us today to discuss your case so we can advise you on your best legal strategy