Whether you are a victim of sexual harassment in the workplace or suspect it is occurring, you likely have many questions about where to go from here. The New York sexual harassment attorneys of Brown Kwon & Lam understand how delicate these situations are and will fight aggressively for you. Take a look at these frequently asked questions about workplace sexual harassment in New York.
What is considered sexual harassment?
In general, anything that makes the work environment uncomfortable or impacts an employee’s ability to work is considered sexual harassment. This may include:
- Sending inappropriate or suggestive videos, pictures, or emails to co-workers.
- Making sexual or lewd comments including unwanted sexual advances or gestures.
- Inappropriately making unwelcome physical contact with another person.
- Asking a coworker about their sexual orientation/history, etc.
Does employment rank matter?
Sexual harassment need not only occur between a supervisor and subordinates. The harasser can be an independent contractor of the employer, a co-worker, or a non-employee, such as a vendor.
What if I’m fired for reporting sexual harassment?
If you are fired after filing a sexual harassment claim in the workplace, know that it is illegal. You can sue for damages for wrongful termination and retaliation.
In addition, under New York’s Human Rights Law, retaliation for making an internal complaint to your employer, or for filing a complaint with the Division of Human Rights, is prohibited.
Is it only harassment if it’s a man harassing a woman?
Sexual harassment is not only between a man and a woman. It can happen between and amongst any group of people. If the sexual harassment escalates because of the sexual identity of a co-worker and thus, different and unequal treatment begins, you may also be a victim of sex discrimination and harassment.
If I previously had a relationship with a coworker that has since been called off and they harass me, is it still sexual harassment?
Because sexual harassment claims are built on the principle that the conduct is unwelcomed, so long that you have made clear the relationship is over and the conduct is not warranted or welcomed, you likely have a sexual harassment claim.
It is critical to be proactive in these situations to ensure both parties know the relationship is over.
If a co-worker or supervisor makes comments about clothing or appearance, is that sexual harassment?
This often depends. If a supervisor tells you to dress more professionally, without making gendered demands, this is not sexual harassment. However, if the comments about clothing and appearance are sexual in nature, including the suggestion of more revealing clothing items, that is likely harassment.
Can a customer be found guilty of sexual harassment?
If you work in a position where you often deal with customers, sexual harassment can become more complex. If a customer is making sexual comments and offensive remarks when visiting the establishment you work in, it is important you tell your supervisor. If management does not work to ensure you do not have to be subjected to the behavior, you likely have a sexual harassment claim.
If however, your employer takes actions to remove the customer or work your schedule in a non-interfering manner to you, there is likely no more to be done, unless the harassment continues.
Are independent contractors covered by sexual harassment protections?
Independent contractors, vendors, consultants, etc. are all protected from harassment in the workplace they are currently providing a service to. If you experience sexual harassment while working for a company, it is important to report it to ensure it can be handled.
What actions should I take if I think I’m being sexually harassed at work?
If it is safe to do so, the first thing to do if you believe you are being sexually harassed at work is to tell the harasser to stop. You then will need to follow employer protocol on sexual harassment reporting if the behavior continues. From there, you may be asked to participate in an investigation. If you believe your employer has not done everything they can to remedy the situation, you can file a lawsuit against the company for allowing the behavior to continue.
Can consensual sexual relations between a supervisor and a subordinate be considered sexual harassment?
Yes, a consensual relationship between a supervisor and subordinate can constitute sexual harassment. Though these relationships are not often prohibited, sometimes employers will have policies against them. Further, if the relationship begins to make other employees question the supervisor’s fairness and impartiality, some employees may question if it is a quid pro quo harassment case.
Additionally, if the relationship ends or creates a hostile environment for others, then it may form the basis of a sexual harassment complaint.
New York Sexual Harassment Attorneys: Brown Kwon & Lam
Sexual harassment claims can be complicated and emotionally stressful for all parties involved. But that doesn’t mean you should just allow the behavior to continue. The New York sexual harassment attorneys of Brown Kwon & Lam will fight for you. Contact us today.