Sexual Harassment FAQ
Sexual Harassment Frequently Asked Questions
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 harassment in New York.
What does New York consider sexual harassment?
In general, anything that makes the work environment uncomfortable or impacts an employee’s ability to work is 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 co-worker about their sexual orientation/history, etc.
Does employment rank matter?
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 my employer fires me for reporting harassment?
If your employer fires you after filing a 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 harassment escalates because of the sexual identity of a co-worker and different and unequal treatment begins, you may also be a victim of sex discrimination and harassment.
If a previous relationship with a co-worker ends and they harass me afterward, is it still sexual harassment?
Yes, because sexual harassment claims are built on the principle that the conduct is unwelcome. As long as you make it clear the relationship is over and the conduct is not welcome, you likely have a 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 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. When 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 protect you from inappropriate behavior, you likely have a harassment claim.
However, if your employer takes action to remove the customer or change your schedule in a non-interfering manner to you, there is likely no more to do, unless the harassment continues.
Are independent contractors protected from sexual harassment?
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 immediately.
What actions should I take if I think I’m experiencing sexual harassment at work?
If it is safe to do so, the first thing 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, your employer will likely ask you 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.
Is a consensual sexual relationship between a supervisor and subordinate sexual harassment?
Yes, a consensual relationship between a supervisor and subordinate can constitute sexual harassment. Though not every place of work prohibits these relationships, 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, it may form the basis of a harassment complaint.
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.