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New York Sexual Harassment Lawyers

Our New York sexual harassment lawyers have been helping employees since 1999 and we have recovered more than $450 Million for our clients nationwide. If you are facing sexual harassment at work, contact us and we can help you.

If you are being sexually harassed, there are specific steps you should take. Its never a good idea to wait and let it continue. In many of our cases, our New York sexual harassment lawyers quickly put an end to the harassment and obtained compensation for the suffering caused by the harassment.

New York Sexual Harassment: Key Things to Know as a Victim

No More Forced Arbitration for Sexual Harassment and Assault Cases

Companies can no longer force sexual harassment and assault victims into private arbitration. Those agreements are now void and these cases can be filed in court. This provides victims with new and powerful leverage to resolve their cases because most companies want to avoid the adverse publicity of a sexual harassment lawsuit. Some of our New York sexual harassment lawyers are experienced trial attorneys who know how to win cases in court.

Two Types of Sexual Harassment Cases

Quid Pro Quo Sexual Harassment is the first and most common kind of sexual harassment. This happens when a person with supervisor or higher ranking company official uses their power to coerce a lower ranking subordinate into a sexual relationship. We often see cases where managers try to force unwilling lower ranking employees into sexual situations. This type of sexual harassment can be terrifying for victims who feel forced to do things just to keep their job. These cases are often easy to resolve because the law imposes strict liability on the company for this kind of sexual harassment.

Hostile Work Environment Sexual Harassment is the second type of sexual harassment. This happens when coworkers create a sexualized work environment by making sexual comments or engaging in sexual conduct.

Save Evidence of Sexual Conduct or Harassment

If you are being sexually harassed at work, try to save any evidence you have. For example, if someone at work is sending you sexualized messages or making advances or invitations to dinner or romantic trips, save these messages. Make a copy of them and save them on your PERSONAL DEVICE. Do not save it on your work computer or phone – save it on your personal phone or computer. Same with photographs or gifts. Save them. We have had cases where supervisors send our clients sexual gifts such as vibrators, lingerie, other sex toys and even food shaped like like body parts. Take photographs of anything like this. Also, keep a written log of what is happening to you on your personal phone or computer.

Contact our New York Sexual Harassment Lawyers Today

If you are being sexually harassed at work, reach out to us today and put an end to the suffering. You have more power than you think. There is no reason to let it continue and doing so only makes things worse. It may feel like its you against a giant company or powerful people, but you might be surprised how quickly that can change if you get a good law firm on your side.

Contact our experienced New York sexual harassment lawyers at Ottinger Employment Lawyers today.

Understanding Sexual Harassment in New York

Sexual harassment is a serious issue that U.S. law recognizes as a form of unlawful discrimination based on sex. This includes misconduct related to an individual’s sexual orientation, self-identified sex, gender expression, gender identity, and/or transgender status.

Legal Framework

At the federal level, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits sexual harassment. This law requires employers with 15 or more employees to protect their workers from harassment and unwanted sexual conduct in the workplace.

When Does Behavior Become Sexual Harassment?

Behavior becomes illegal sexual harassment when it:

  • Interferes with Work: The behavior unreasonably interferes with an individual’s work performance or creates an intimidating, hostile, or offensive work environment.
  • Affects Terms of Employment: The conduct is explicitly or implicitly made a condition of employment.
  • Influences Employment Decisions: Submission to or rejection of such conduct is used as a basis for employment decisions.

Sexual harassment can affect anyone, regardless of gender. Although many people see it primarily as an issue affecting women, men file about one in five sexual harassment complaints in the U.S. Harassment can occur between individuals of any gender.

Types of Harassing Conduct

Harassing conduct can take many forms, including:

  • Verbal and Non-Verbal: Making sexually oriented gestures, noises, remarks, or comments about a person’s sexuality or sexual experiences.
  • Visual: Displaying sexually suggestive objects, pictures, cartoons, graffiti, or reading materials.
  • Physical: Initiating unwanted physical advances like touching, back rubs, pats on the butt, poking, pinching, kissing, hugging, grabbing, or “accidental” brushes against your body.
  • Severe Acts: Committing rape, sexual battery, molestation, or attempts to commit these assaults.
  • Verbal Advances: Making unwanted verbal advances or sexual propositions.
  • Threats and Retaliation: Threatening to reduce hours, benefits, pay rate, or other conditions of employment if sexual requests are not complied with. Retaliating against those who complain about harassment.

Types of Sexual Harassment

U.S. law identifies two main types of sexual harassment:

  1. Quid Pro Quo: This Latin phrase means “this for that.” It occurs when someone makes sexual conduct a condition for job-related benefits, such as promotions or hiring. It can be presented as an offer or a threat. For example, a boss might imply that you could be fired or demoted for not engaging in unwanted sexual conduct.
  2. Hostile Work Environment: This type occurs when offending behaviors are so pervasive or severe that they alter the conditions of your employment. You can experience a hostile work environment even if the behavior is not directly aimed at you. If someone’s behavior disrupts your ability to do your job, it creates a hostile work environment.

What to Do If You Experience Sexual Harassment

If you believe you are experiencing sexual harassment, take action:

  • Document the behavior.
  • Report it to your employer.
  • Seek legal advice to understand your rights and options.
Contact Us Schedule your consultation today. Schedule your consultation today.

What Does New York Law Say About Sexual Harassment at Work?

New York state law enhances protections against harassment for individuals living and working in the state, going beyond federal law specifications.

Expanded Protections Under New York Law

Universal Employer Responsibility:

  • New York Human Rights Law mandates that all employers, regardless of the number of employees, maintain a work environment free from sexual harassment.
  • This means even employees at small companies (with fewer than 15 employees) can file formal harassment complaints, a channel not covered under federal law.

Local Government Regulations:

  • Local governments, like New York City, enforce additional protections through laws such as the New York City Human Rights Laws. These laws provide further avenues for reporting harassment and retaliation.

Key Protections and Requirements for New York Workers

Protection for Non-Employees:

  • As of 2018, New York state law includes non-employees (contractors, subcontractors, vendors, consultants, or employees of outside entities) in its sexual harassment protections.
  • Employers face liability if they knew or should have known about harassment and failed to take immediate and appropriate corrective action.

Mandatory Prevention Policies and Training:

  • All employers must adopt a sexual harassment prevention policy and provide annual training to employees.
  • These policies and training programs must meet minimum legal requirements to ensure employees know their rights, how to recognize harassment, and how to file complaints.

Restrictions on Nondisclosure Agreements:

  • Employers cannot use nondisclosure and confidentiality agreements to silence survivors of sexual harassment, except when the complainant prefers it.
  • This law prevents companies from imposing restrictive contracts as conditions for settling harassment cases.

Ban on Mandatory Arbitration Clauses:

  • Workers cannot be forced into mandatory arbitration for sexual harassment claims.
  • This allows survivors the option to sue their employers and abusers in public courts, rather than being confined to private arbitration, which tends to favor employers.

Confidential Hotline for Complaints:

  • Workers can access a confidential hotline (1-800-HARASS-3 or 1-800-427-2773) to make complaints and receive free legal advice.
  • Pro bono lawyers from the NY State Division of Human Rights (DHR) operate this service during regular business hours.

Continuous Legal Improvements

  • New York state continually enhances its anti-harassment measures. For example, in March 2022, additional regulations were adopted to:
    • Expand the definition of illegal retaliation.
    • Close loopholes that previously excluded certain protections.

If you experience sexual harassment at work, remember that New York law is on your side, offering comprehensive protections and resources to help you seek justice.

Legal Restitution Available for Survivors of Sexual Harassment

If you’ve been sexually harassed at work, you can hold your employer accountable by filing a discrimination complaint through federal, state, or local channels. Here’s what you need to know about your options and the potential financial remedies you might be entitled to:

Types of Financial Remedies

When you file a complaint, you might receive:

  • Back-pay
  • Front pay or reinstatement
  • Lost benefits
  • Payment of attorneys’ fees
  • Prejudgment interest
  • Compensatory damages: Money awarded to compensate you for your losses.
  • Punitive damages: Money awarded to punish the wrongdoer, in certain circumstances.

Filing a Complaint

The procedures for filing a sexual harassment complaint and bringing a lawsuit differ at the federal, state, and local levels.

Federal Level:

  • Title VII of the Civil Rights Act: This law handles national sexual harassment claims but only covers companies with 15 or more employees.
  • Process:
    • File a formal complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) within 300 days of the misconduct.
    • The EEOC has 180 days to investigate.
    • Request a “right to sue” letter after 180 days, then you have 90 days to file a claim in federal court.
    • To receive punitive damages, you must show the employer acted with malice or reckless indifference.
  • Damage Limits:
    • Employers with 15 to 100 employees: Up to $50,000.
    • Employers with 500 or more employees: Up to $300,000.

State Level (New York):

  • You might prefer to pursue action in state court for several reasons:
    • Longer Filing Window: You have three years after the incident to file a lawsuit.
    • No Mandatory Pre-Filing: You don’t need to file with the New York State Division of Human Rights before taking legal action in state court.
    • If you do file with the state division, you must dismiss the administrative action before filing in state court. After dismissal, you have 90 days to file in state court.
    • Punitive Damages: Not available under state law claims, but you can pursue them under the New York City Human Rights Law for actions that show willful or wanton negligence, recklessness, or conscious disregard of others’ rights.

Local Level (New York City):

  • New York City Human Rights Law: Allows for punitive damages under certain conditions, providing an additional avenue for survivors seeking justice.

Additional Legal Avenues

You can also bring a lawsuit under New York tort laws against the harasser. Potential tort claims include:

  • Defamation
  • Intentional infliction of emotional distress

Remember, you must file these tort claims within one year of the harassment unless there’s a physical injury involved, in which case you have three years of the injury to act.

Taking Action

If you experience sexual harassment at work, document the behavior, report it to your employer, and seek legal advice. New York law offers comprehensive protections and resources to help you seek justice.

What to Do If You Experience Sexual Harassment in New York

Experiencing sexual harassment can be overwhelming. Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you navigate the situation and understand your rights.

Understand Your Rights

  • Your employer must provide a workplace free of sexual harassment and respond to incidents with immediate and appropriate corrective actions.
  • New York State Labor Law, Section 201-g, requires employers to have a written sexual harassment prevention policy. Make sure you read and understand this policy.

Report the Incident

  • Follow your employer’s policy for reporting sexual harassment.
  • Report the incident in writing, detailing each event, including the name of the harasser, their relationship to you (supervisor, co-worker, etc.), and any witnesses.
  • Include details of previous attempts to inform management and their responses.
  • Describe how the behavior has affected your job performance, any emotional distress, physical symptoms, and any retaliation you’ve faced.

Think Before Posting on Social Media

  • Be cautious about sharing details online. Employers can use social media posts to discredit your story.
  • Remember, private discussions with your lawyer and health counselors are confidential, but everyday conversations on social media are not.

What Not to Do

  • Don’t Destroy Evidence: Keep offensive notes, texts, emails, or other forms of evidence. Document incidents as soon as they occur, noting the date, time, location, and witnesses.
  • Don’t Wait Too Long: File complaints within the time limits. The EEOC requires complaints within 300 days of the last incident, while state agencies allow up to three years.
  • Don’t Think Retaliation is Allowed: Retaliation for reporting sexual harassment is illegal. If your employer takes adverse actions against you for reporting harassment, they are breaking the law.
  • Don’t Doubt Your Feelings: Trust your feelings if you find behavior offensive, even if the perpetrator claims it’s a joke. You have the right to report it without fear of retaliation.
  • Don’t Confuse Sexual Assault and Harassment: If you experience involuntary sexual contact or acts through violence, coercion, or incapacitation, it’s sexual assault—a crime under New York law. Call 911 and report to local police.
  • Don’t Assume You’re the Only Victim: Harassers often target multiple victims. Reporting your experience can help protect others.

If You Experience Sexual Assault or Violence

  • Call 911 if you or someone else is being assaulted.
  • Report the incident to local police.
  • Seek care from a healthcare provider.
  • Contact a crisis hotline.
  • Seek support from friends, family, and community agencies.

Contact Our New York Sexual Harassment Lawyers

You don’t have to face this alone. Consult with our experienced New York sexual harassment lawyers to understand your legal options.

  • Get Legal Advice: An employment attorney can help you understand how federal and state laws apply to your case, guide you through filing a complaint, and evaluate the merits of a lawsuit.
  • Evaluate Your Options: Your attorney can advise you on the best course of action to strengthen your case.

Ottinger Employment Lawyers have been helping employees win restitution for the violation of their rights since 1999. Contact our team today to discuss your case and learn how we can help.

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