Our Award-Winning New York Employment Law Attorney has represented victims of sexual harassment in the workplace. Sexual harassment is a form of gender discrimination and is prohibited by federal, state, and local laws. Specifically, the federal statute – Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended, prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex (as well as race, religion, color, or national origin) in the terms and condition of employment which include: recruitment, selection, assignment, transfer, layoff, termination, training or development opportunities, wages and salaries, sick leave time and pay, vacation time and pay, overtime work and pay, medical, hospital, life and accident insurance, or other employee benefits.
There are two types of sexual harassment cases and they are discussed below for your general information:
1. Quid Pro Quo
2. Hostile Work Environment
Quid Pro Quo basically means “this for that” – This type of harassment can include unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature when: (i) its submission is made either explicitly or implicitly a term or condition of an individual’s employment; or (ii) its submission or rejection of such conduct by an individual is used as the basis for employment decisions affecting such individual.
An example would be if your boss says he or she would give you a promotion if you agreed to engage in a romantic relationship or alternatively, your supervisor said he or she would fire you if you refused to submit to such a relationship.
A Hostile Work Environment occurs when sexual advances, comments, gestures or other similar conduct have the effect of unreasonably interfering with your work performance or creating an intimidating, hostile, or offensive working environment. A greater number cases are alleged under a hostile work environment theory.
Some examples include a supervisor, co-worker or event a third party making unwanted and unwelcome sexual compliments, comments, touching, and gestures. Some people can get confused by the gestures in this text – Gestures can include looking at a person up and down and leering and taking steps to invade your personal space.
Sexual harassment cases can be hotly contested disputes and the issue of gestures can be difficult to prove. If you are the victim of sexual harassment, it is important to write down and keep a diary of every instance of inappropriate conduct with a note of whether there were any witnesses. This diary may help you at a later date. In addition to keeping a diary, it is important to complain to the harasser and Human Resources (or other appropriate individual according to the Company’s policy). Filing a complaint is important because it puts your employer on notice of the harassment, it confirms the offensive conduct was unwelcome and it may provide you with protection from retaliation. While the laws can differ depending on your jurisdiction and specific details, most laws prohibiting sexual harassment protect employees who make a good-faith based complaint of gender discrimination from retaliation. Written complaints are preferable than oral complaints which may be disputed.