New York has strict laws concerning sexual harassment in the workplace. In August 2019, Governor Andrew Cuomo signed legislation that strengthened the New York State Human Rights Law, the state law that prohibits discrimination in the workplace. Now, employers in New York must create sexual harassment policies that meet the minimum state requirements. If they fail to do so, and you are a victim of this form of harassment, you have rights.
New York Standards for Sexual Harassment Policies
New York employers must provide written copies of sexual harassment prevention policies to their employees which meet the minimum requirements of New York law. These policies must include information and rules such as:
- Prohibit sexual harassment consistent with guidance by the Department of Labor
- Provide examples of prohibited conduct
- Include information on the provisions concerning sexual harassment, remedies available to victims, and a statement that there may be applicable local laws
- Include a complaint form
- Include a procedure for the timely and confidential investigation of complaints
- Inform employees of their rights
- Clearly state that sexual harassment is considered a form of employee misconduct and that sanctions will be enforced against individuals engaging in such action, in addition to the supervisors or administrative personnel who knew of its occurrence
- Clearly state that retaliation against individuals who complain of sexual harassment is illegal
Examples of Sexual Harassment in the Workplace
There are many forms of behavior that may qualify as sexual harassment in the workplace. Common incidents include:
- Sending inappropriate videos or pictures with co-workers
- Sending suggestive emails, notes, etc.
- Posting offensive posters or pictures or sexual imagery in workspaces
- Making sexual or lewd comments
- Inappropriate and unwanted sexual advances or gestures
- Making comments about body parts, clothing, or appearance in a sexual manner
- Inappropriately making physical contact with another person
- Asking a coworker about their sexual orientation/history, etc.
- Making comments about someone’s gender identity or sexual orientation
Though this is only a snippet of the types of behaviors that may occur, almost anything that makes the work environment uncomfortable or impacts an employee’s ability to work is considered sexual harassment.
Quid Pro Quo Sexual Harassment
While sexual harassment can happen between powers of authority and subordinates or even coworkers on the same level, when a manager, supervisor, etc. begins to make sexual advances at you, you likely have a reason for concern.
Quid pro quo sexual harassment involves a person of authority in the workplace making requests or demands for sexual favors as a condition of employment. This includes employment benefits like raises, bonuses, or promotions, as well as adverse employment action like firing or demoting.
Examples of quid pro quo sexual harassment in the workplace include:
- Being offered a job in exchange for sexual favors
- Performance evaluation is altered based upon a willingness to engage in sexual acts
- Being offered an employment benefit in exchange for a sexual favor
- Being fired for not giving into sexual demands
If a supervisor, employer, manager, etc. offers you a condition of employment or another benefit, you likely have grounds for a quid pro quo sexual harassment claim, even if there is only one instance of harassment.
Penalties For Sexual Harassment
Because there are state and federal laws protecting employees from sexual harassment, an employer may face penalties under both. Such penalties include:
- Repayment of lost wages to the victim
- Compensatory and punitive damages
- Legal fees
- Job reinstatement
Employees who engaged in sexual harassment will also face penalties for their actions. This can include discipline against the employee such as:
- Mandatory training and counseling
- Wage or salary deduction
If you experience this type of harassment, know that you are not alone. You may feel defenseless and as if you have lost your voice. Let us help you bring it back.
Let the employment attorneys of Brown Kwon & Lam represent you in your New York sexual harassment case. We have the experience and the drive to bring you justice. Contact us today.