Sexual Harassment Can Create a Hostile Work Environment

Unlawful Sexual Harassment Creates Hostile Work Environment

Lawyers who focus their practice on sexual harassment claims, see the number of cases filed in New York rising yearly. If you are being discriminated against or harassed in the workplace, consider speaking with experienced legal professionals who can help you achieve successful results in a claim against your employer.

It is not always easy to speak up or ask for assistance when someone is hurting you, making you uncomfortable or frightening you. When you are experiencing harassment or discrimination in the workplace, it can take a serious emotional and even physical toll on you. The entire situation becomes more complicated when you feel like your job, financial security, and reputation is at stake. Should you tell someone? What if you get fired? What if the harassment worsens?

We are a full-service employment discrimination law firm with decades of experience successfully navigating sexual harassment claims on Long Island and for clients throughout New York. We can help guide you through yours with the high level of dedication, skill, and compassion for which we are known. We have had much success over the years litigating and negotiating settlements for victims of workplace sexual harassment. Let us review your claim and help you secure the monetary compensation and other remedies to which you may be entitled.

Sexual Harassment in the New York Workplace Occurs in Two Ways

Title VII of the federal Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits employers from discriminating against employees because of sex. Sexual harassment is a type of sex discrimination. “Quid pro quo” and “hostile work environment” are the two types of sexual harassment that are unlawful in New York and across the nation. Let’s look at quid pro quo first.

Quid pro quo is Latin and translates roughly to mean an exchange or “something-for-something.” In the context of workplace sex harassment, it is when a figure of authority promises something positive or threatens something negative to a subordinate in exchange for the performance of a sexual favor. The demand by the supervisor may be explicit, implied, subtle or overt.

Some examples of quid pro quo harassment may include behavior such as:

  • Your supervisor is suggesting that he will promote you if you have dinner with him at a nice hotel.
  • Your manager promising not to give you a bad review if you have sex with her
  • When you refuse a sexual advance from your boss, he says “I guess you don’t value your job.”

A Closer Look at Sexual Harassment- What is a Hostile Work Environment?

Unlike quid pro quo, sex harassment of the hostile environment variety does not have to involve individuals with a supervisor-subordinate relationship. A hostile work environment exists when offensive conduct by a co-worker is so prevalent that it makes a reasonable employee feel unsafe or uncomfortable. The victim may become so stressed, anxious or distracted by the behavior that he or she may be forced to quit. Conduct that contributes to a sexually hostile environment varies but tends to include some of the following:

  • telling sexually inappropriate jokes
  • not taking no for an answer when requesting dates or sexual favors
  • unwanted and persistent flirting
  • frequently making sexual innuendos
  • displaying offensive pictures
  • forced physical contact-unwanted hugging or touching
  • blocking someone from moving freely throughout the office
  • sending sexually offensive materials through email, text or other methods

A hostile environment requires that the behavior or conduct be unwelcome. It also must be either frequent or pervasive. What behavior meets these requirements differs from case to case. Courts may look at the frequency of the conduct, the severity, whether it was physical, verbal or threatening. Courts may also consider the number of victims, the number of perpetrators, and whether a supervisor was involved or knew about the conduct.

For example, a male co-worker approaches and asks a colleague to accompany him to a weekend party. The colleague says no. This scenario is likely not a case of hostile work environment sexual harassment. However, if the male co-worker:

  • continues to ask despite the colleague’s protests
  • asks with sexually explicit messages
  • asks with sexually explicit messages
  • asks with sexually explicit messages

These actions may cause a reasonable person to feel uncomfortable or unsafe, creating a hostile work environment and quite possibly a successful claim for sexual harassment. Remember, the parties do not have to be of the opposite sexes. Same gender sex harassment occurs with frequency and is unlawful.

Targets of Sexual Harassment are not the Only Victims to File Claims

It is possible to file a sex harassment claim even if you are not the direct target. There are times when the sexual harassment of a co-worker creates a hostile environment for others in the workplace. It may be hard for you to concentrate on your own work when a colleague is being victimized. You may be forced to listen to complaints, see things that upset you become fearful that you will become the next target. If you have been working in a hostile environment or been forced to quit because of it, speak to a sexual harassment attorney to find out if you have a case.

Who Holds Responsibility for Workplace Sexual Harassment in New York?

Unlike quid pro quo harassment, in a hostile work environment there does not have to be any supervisor/subordinate relationship. No employment benefit is at risk. Hostile work environment sexual harassment occurs across all levels of employees holding a variety of positions. Employers may be responsible for the conduct of their employees and have a duty to take steps to ensure that the harassment does not occur or continue.

To hold the employer responsible for the sexual harassment of a worker, you must show that the employer knew about the behavior or should have known about it; and that the employer did not take adequate steps to prevent it. This element is one of the reasons it is important to understand and follow the proper protocol when reporting sexual harassment. You want to make sure that if necessary, you can prove that your employer had notice.

New York Attorneys Help File Claims for Sex Harassment

If you have been forced to quit your job because of sexual harassment or continue to work in a hostile work environment, you may be able to collect monetary damages from your employer. You may be entitled to back pay, reinstatement to your job, punitive damages and additional money to compensate you for emotional distress.

Learn more about your rights to file a sexual harassment claim by contacting us. Our experienced lawyers have been handling sexual harassment, and other employment discrimination claims for workers in the greater New York metropolitan area for decades.

We have a dedicated team of legal professionals who understand what it takes to prevail in a sexual harassment case. We are not afraid to take your matter to trial if that is what is needed to obtain the outcome to which you are entitled. Contact our office 24/7 for a free evaluation and to learn more about your rights to receive compensation.