Five Things to Know About Workplace Sexual Harassment

Sexual harassment is an unpleasant, but unfortunately common, part of the modern workplace. Men and women alike must deal with coworkers and superiors who do not respect their boundaries and see no problem in using their position to pressure others with improper behavior. However, there are steps you can take if you have been the victim of sexual harassment, and knowing your rights can help protect you, or at least redress the harm you’ve suffered.

  1. Know your employer’s sexual harassment policy.
    1. By New York State law, every employer must have a sexual harassment policy, including a procedure for reporting and investigating claims. This policy also must be publicly available for anyone who wants to read it. If your employer does not have such a policy in place or refuses to make it available, your employer is in violation of the law and may be subject to penalties for noncompliance.
  2. You are legally protected from retaliation for reporting.
    1. Reporting sexual harassment is an integral part of addressing and stopping it, although not every employer is as helpful in dealing with sexual harassment when it’s reported. Some employers, in fact, would prefer to simply silence the one reporting the harassment, rather than take steps to curtail the harasser’s behavior. However, taking any steps to retaliate against a complaint (whether it means threatening the victim, reducing their hours or denying them benefits) is illegal, and can result in legal trouble for the employer.
  3. You are entitled to a prompt investigation.
    1. A more subtle tactic that some employers have used to silence harassment victims is conducting internal investigations that stretch out indefinitely. Because these investigations were technically ongoing, it discouraged harassment victims from moving forward with other possible remedies. However, New York recently revised its laws to say that these investigations must be performed promptly and in a timely fashion, to prevent exactly this kind of delaying tactic.
  4. You can always report it to the government.
    1. If, for whatever reason, you don’t feel comfortable reporting your harassment to your employer, or you have reported your harassment but haven’t received a satisfactory result, you can report your harassment directly to New York’s Department of Human Rights. They will perform an independent investigation into your complaint and take appropriate steps to address your concerns.
  5. You don’t need to report sexual harassment to your employer to sue about it.
    1. If all else fails, you still retain a private attorney to sue your employer and/or your harasser in state court. While this isn’t necessarily recommended until and unless you have exhausted all other paths, you don’t need to report your harassment to your employer before you seek other legal paths to redress the harm you’ve suffered. This is especially important to remember if your harasser is your direct superior or someone else highly placed in the company.

If you have been the victim of sexual harassment in your workplace or suffered retaliation for reporting sexual harassment, it is important that you seek the guidance of an experienced New York employment lawyer who can protect your legal rights and advocate on your behalf during the legal process. Steven Mitchell Sack, the Employee’s Lawyer, is a New York employment lawyer who has considerable experience in handling the many aspects of employment law. To schedule an appointment with New York City employment lawyer Steve Mitchell Sack, call (917) 371-8000.

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