As an employee, you have the right to be free from sexual harassment or a hostile work environment based on your age, race, religion, national origin, gender, or gender identity. When your rights have been violated, The Howley Law Firm will work to hold your employer accountable.

What Is Sexual Harassment?

Sexual harassment includes a wide range of behaviors and actions:

  • Unwanted sexual advances
  • Sexually offensive comments
  • Inappropriate touching
  • Stroking or massaging oneself sexually while around another person
  • Spreading rumors about a person’s sexuality
  • Quid pro quo harassment where there is an expectation of sexual behavior as a condition of your employment or advancement within the company
  • Other unwelcome or offensive behavior directed at you because of your sex

It is a common misconception that sexual harassment must be sexual in nature. Behavior directed at you because of your sex is considered sexual harassment even if there is no sexual intent. For example, a supervisor who treats an employee differently because they do not conform to expectations for stereotypically masculine or feminine behavior is engaging in sexual harassment, even though there is no sexually-based intent behind the supervisor’s actions. Men, women, transgender, and gender-nonconforming individuals all experience sexual harassment in the workplace. 

What Is a Hostile Work Environment?

A hostile work environment is one where you are being exposed to inappropriate and offensive behavior based on your age, race, religion, national origin, gender, or gender identity. This could include:

  • Jokes or degrading language
  • Comments about your activities, appearance, or relationships
  • Inappropriate leering or staring
  • Unwanted physical contact such as hugging, rubbing, touching, patting, pinching, or massaging
  • Sabotaging or interfering with your work-related tasks
  • Sending or displaying images or text messages related to your age, race, religion, national origin, gender, or gender identity

To qualify as a hostile work environment, the conduct must be severe and pervasive to the extent that it affects the terms and conditions of your employment. An isolated incident that is dealt with promptly does not meet the legal definition of a hostile work environment.

What Should I Do If I Have Experienced Sexual Harassment or a Hostile Work Environment?

Whenever you have concerns about behavior in the workplace, your first course of action should be to discuss the issue with your supervisor. File a formal complaint and keep a copy for your records. Most companies have procedures in place to deal with allegations of sexual harassment or a hostile work environment.

If the person who is mistreating you is a coworker, client, customer, or contractor, your employer can only be held legally liable if they knew about the harassment and did not take corrective action. If the person mistreating you is your supervisor, your employer can be held liable even if senior management staff did not know about the misconduct.

If the issue is not dealt with to your satisfaction, you should contact an employment lawyer to discuss taking legal action. If you have experienced sexual harassment or a hostile work environment, you may be entitled to recover compensation for your lost earnings, denial of a promotion, raise or educational opportunity; emotional distress; and punitive damages. You may also be entitled to receive an injunction or court order protecting you from future harassment and retaliation.

How Can The Howley Law Firm Help?

At The Howley Law Firm, we are committed to helping New York employees who’ve experienced sexual harassment or a hostile work environment hold their employers accountable under state and federal law. We serve clients throughout New York, including those who live and work in Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, Bronx, Staten Island, Westchester County, and Nassau County.

Being worried about the cost of legal representation is understandable, especially if you fear retaliation from your current employer. However, The Howley Law Firm represents clients on a contingency fee basis, which means there is no upfront cost associated with protecting your legal rights as an individual or pursuing a class action claim.

Contact us to schedule a free and confidential consultation to discuss your case. We also encourage you to download our free e-book, Fight Back Against Sexual Harassment and Hostile Work Environments, to learn about your rights as an employee in New York.