Some Employers Just Don't Get It
The “me too” movement. The criminal conviction of Harvey Weinstein. Changes in laws that make it easier for employees to recover damages for sexual harassment in the workplace.
These developments have had a significant impact on both the number of sexual harassment cases being filed, and on the amounts being paid by employers who have not gotten the message.
Yet, sexual harassment is still a major problem at companies in New York. Surveys report that between 20% and 30% of women are sexually harassed at work at some point during their careers.
Thousands of employees file complaints of sexual harassment in the workplace every year. Many of these cases settle on a confidential basis before trial, and the ones that go to trial often result in very significant compensatory and punitive damages awards.
So, What Is Sexual Harassment Exactly?
Sexual harassment is not asking a co-worker if they want to go out on a date, or complimenting their new jacket, or asking if they want to have a cup of coffee. It is not one offensive comment or joke.
Sexual harassment is a pattern of unwelcome comments or conduct that results in adverse employment actions or creates a hostile work environment.
The harassment may be blatant. It may involve unwanted sexual advances, unwanted touching, or demands for sexual favors.
The harassment may also be subtle and have nothing to do with sex. A supervisor who makes derogatory comments about women, or who constantly comments about their appearance, can create a hostile work environment without ever mentioning sex.
The harassment does not have to be directed at women. Men can be sexually harassed. Individuals who do not fit into gender stereotypes can be harassed. Whatever your gender or gender identity, the law protects you from sexual harassment and a hostile work environment.
The harassment does not have to be directed at you personally. When one woman is being sexually harassed, for example, it can result in a hostile work environment for all women.
Sexual harassment is a form of employment discrimination. It occurs when the harassment is based on your sex, gender, or gender identity. It becomes illegal – and you have a claim for compensatory and punitive damages – when the comments or conduct result in adverse employment actions or create an environment that is hostile or intimidating.
How to Respond to Sexual Harassment
Sexual harassment or a hostile work environment can cause emotional and psychological harm, including stress, depression and anxiety. You may experience decreased confidence and self-esteem. Physical health problems can include loss of sleep, appetite, weight fluctuations, nausea and headaches. Sexual harassment can also have a negative impact on your job performance and career trajectory.
For these reasons, it is important to act promptly when faced with sexual harassment or a hostile work environment. Do not let the harassers wear you down. Get support from a family member or close friend. Talk to them about what is happening at work. Having someone on your side will give you the strength and confidence you need to make smart decisions.
Consult with an experienced employment lawyer. If you are still working for your employer, we can demand that they take steps to stop the harassment and warn them against any retaliation. If you have been fired or quit, we can help you understand your rights and develop a case for compensatory and punitive damages.
Do not delay. There are strict time limits to file a claim. Call us today at (212) 601-2728 to schedule a free and confidential consultation with one of our experienced lawyers.