Can I Sue My Employer For Sexual Harassment In New York?

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Erica L. Shnayder - Employment & Labor - Super Lawyers

Answered by: Erica L. Shnayder

Phillips & Associates, Attorneys at Law PLLC
New York, NY
Phone: 212-235-1109
Fax: 212-901-2107

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Yes, you can. Sexual harassment is never acceptable in the workplace, and employers have an obligation to put a stop to it. As soon as they become aware that one employee is directing unwanted sexual attention towards another employee, an employer needs to act. If they do not, you can often take legal steps against them. 

That said, filing a sexual harassment lawsuit is typically the last step in a longer process. Before suing your employer, be sure that you have considered these other steps first. Skipping any one of them can weaken your legal claim and jeopardize your ability to recover the compensation and justice you deserve. If you are experiencing sexual harassment in the workplace, immediately contact a sexual harssment attorney to help guide you through each of these steps. 

Ask The Harasser To Stop 

One of the hallmarks of sexual harassment is that it needs to be “unwanted” sexual attention. When defending their behavior, many harassers will say that they didn’t know that they were bothering the victim or that their advances were unwelcome. 

An easy way to remove this defense is to explicitly ask the person to stop harassing you. If you put this in writing, you will have a record that you can refer to later in the event of legal or administrative action. 

It’s important to note that a direct confrontation with the harasser is not always advised, especially if you fear for your safety. If you feel that it is a safe action to take, however, it can be an effective way of ending harassment. 

File A Report At Work 

If confronting the harasser did not stop the behavior—or would be ill-advised, given the situation—you should report the behavior to your supervisor. If your supervisor is the one who is harassing you, report it to their superior or the human resources department, if available. Many companies have guidelines on how to file a sexual harassment report. If these guidelines exist in your workplace, follow them as closely as possible and keep records of how you did so. 

The benefits of making an internal report are two-fold. Your employer can act much faster than a court of law, so it could put an end to the harassment long before any legal action could take hold.  If your employer does not take any action, the company may be held liable for the harassment, and you could recover monetary damages. 

File A Charge With The EEOC 

If the harassment continues after you have spoken to the harasser and notified your company, the next step may be to contact the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EOCC). The EEOC is a federal agency that enforces anti-harassment laws throughout the country. 

Before filing with the EEOC, you should be actively consulting an experienced sexual harassment attorney to decide on the path forward. An attorney will be able to assess your claim, review the evidence and help you evaluate possible outcomes. They can also help you craft your administrative charge and present your case in the most persuasive manner possible. 

Once you have filed with the EEOC, it will contact your employer and may investigate the charge, dismiss it, request that you engage in mediation, or take some other action. Once it has processed your claim, it will issue a “right to sue” letter. 

Suing Your Employer 

With a right to sue letter in hand, you can now bring a lawsuit against your employer in federal court. Consulting with an attorney at this stage is critical, as there are many filing deadlines to keep track of. Missing any one of these deadlines could derail your claim. 

The road to a sexual harassment lawsuit against an employer is long. However, a courtroom decision in your favor can bring needed closure and financial stability after a difficult journey. 

Disclaimer: The answer is intended to be for informational purposes only. It should not be relied on as legal advice, nor construed as a form of attorney-client relationship.

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