Imagine your boss openly talking about his sex life in the office and asking you inject him with vitamin shots in his buttocks and then later firing you. Well those allegations, among others, are contained in a lawsuit filed by a former law secretary against a law partner at law firm. It is important to note that at this stage that these are just allegations and have been denied by the firm. That being said, a lawsuit has been filed and the firm has to defend its decision to terminate the legal secretary. Our lead New York Employment Lawyer has represented clients in sexual harassment matters for over fifteen years. If you believe that you are a victim of sexual harassment or you know someone was, contact our office for a confidential consultation at (800) 893-9645.
The lawsuit, like other sexual harassment claims, contains graphic allegations – some are included below (i) “Your husband is a lucky guy. I bet you still give him blow jobs. My wife won’t give me blow jobs anymore,” and (ii) I’ll know when I lost enough weight when I can see my penis.” The lawsuit claims that the law partner engaged in constant vulgarity, profanity and abusive behavior. Generally, sexual harassment claims fall into two categories:
“Hostile work environment” has been defined by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission pursuant to federal law (EEOC) as “unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature constitutes sexual harassment when submission to or rejection of this conduct explicitly or implicitly affects an individual’s employment, unreasonably interferes with an individual’s work performance or creates an intimidating, hostile or offensive work environment.” These types of cases often include emails, texts, photos, jokes and inappropriate comments. Court will consider many factors in evaluating these types of cases including frequency of the alleged inappropriate conduct, context of the harassment, whether it was directed at more than one person, the role of the victim, witness statements, size of the employer and nature of the employer’s line of business. The conduct must be sufficiently severe or pervasive to alter the conditions of the offended employee’s employment to create an abusive environment. One or two comments are generally do not constitute severe or pervasive conduct and have been found to be “stray comments.”
“Quid Pro Quo” is the second type of case generally occurs when a supervisor or a person of authority requests sex, a sexual favor, or a sexual relationship in return for a not issuing a disciplinary action or in return for a promotion, raise or other employment benefit.
Some state and local laws have different (sometimes broader) definitions of sexual harassment and it is important to evaluate the specific standard at issue. For example, the New York City Human Rights Law has a broader definition than the federal law. Sexual harassment cases can be emotionally charged cases and can often turn into he/she said cases. It is important to document and/or obtain corroborating evidence of the harassment. This blog is merely a starting point – if you have any questions or concerns about your workplace and what is lawful or unlawful, contact our New York Employment Attorney to learn your rights and options.
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