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What Should I Do If My Boss Is Sexually Harassing Me In New York?

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Brittany Stevens - Employment & Labor - Super Lawyers

Answered by: Brittany Stevens

Located in New York, NYPhillips & Associates, Attorneys at Law PLLC

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Sexual harassment in the workplace is unacceptable, particularly when it comes from a boss or supervisor. If you have experienced this, you should know that New York City has some of the strongest anti-harassment laws in the country. Depending on the nature of the harassment, you may be able to file a lawsuit against your employer and put a stop to it. 

The Definition Of Sexual Harassment 

Sexual harassment takes many forms. Broadly speaking, it is unwelcome sexual behavior that creates a hostile working environment or is used as the basis of employment decisions. It can happen regardless of a person’s gender or sexual orientation. Some examples include: 

  • A boss or supervisor asking an employee for sexual favors
  • Unwelcome touching from a supervisor
  • Hiring decisions that are based on someone’s willingness to submit to sexual activity
  • Denying promotions or raises to someone that resists sexual advances
  • Sending explicit texts, emails, chats or pictures
  • Offensive questions about someone’s sexual history
  • Unwelcome comments about a person’s body or appearance
  • Sexually explicit gestures or other behavior
  • Accessing pornography at work 

A large percentage of New York sexual harassment cases involve supervisors or other authority figures. This power differential creates an environment in which the harasser can use the threat of professional retaliation to ensure silence from the person they are harassing. Judges and juries take a particularly dim view of this dynamic. 

It is important to note that someone does not need to be your direct supervisor for this power differential to be in play. Any time that a harasser is higher up in an organization, a victim can feel that they need to go along with the harassment to preserve their job and career prospects. 

What You Should Do 

A multi-pronged approach is often beneficial when trying to stop sexual harassment, though this can vary depending on the circumstances. In general, you should: 

  • Gather evidence that demonstrates that sexual harassment has occurred.
  • Report the harassing behavior through the appropriate channels at work, bypassing your supervisor if necessary.
  • File a claim with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).
  • Consult an experienced attorney that can help you navigate any legal challenges. 

These are described in greater detail below. 

Gather Evidence 

Courtrooms will often look for a pattern of behavior when determining whether particular conduct rises to the level of sexual harassment. Because of this, it is important to record every instance of harassment that you can. This can include: 

  • Detailed journal entries
  • Screenshots of objectionable emails or text messages
  • Credible reports from corroborating witnesses
  • Other direct documentation of the harassment 

While it may be difficult to focus your attention on behavior that you wish would stop, this evidence will ensure that you have the strongest possible case when filing a claim. 

Make Multiple Reports 

You should report unwelcome advances or other inappropriate sexual behavior as soon as you can. If it’s coming from your direct supervisor, you may have to report further up the chain of command to someone else who outranks that person. When harassment comes from the very highest levels of management, other strategies may be required. An experienced sexual harassment attorney can assist you in charting a path forward. 

In addition, you should also make a claim with the EEOC, which is a federal agency that enforces laws against workplace harassment. You can only do this within 180 days after you were harassed, otherwise you forfeit your ability to pursue a claim.

Keep in mind that you can only file a lawsuit in federal court unless you have first filed a claim with the EEOC. 

Legal Protections In New York 

Employees in New York are protected by an interlocking network of anti-harassment laws that cover the smallest businesses to the largest corporate enterprises. These include the Human Rights Law in New York and the federal Civil Rights Act. Under these laws, you have a robust set of rights that supervisors cannot infringe through sexual harassment. If they do, you may be able to recover monetary damages, including lost pay, lost future income, and compensation for emotional pain and anguish. 

Sexual harassment is incredibly serious and unfortunately common. If you have experienced harassment from a supervisor or other authority figure, you should consult an experienced attorney as soon as possible to explore your options and put a stop to the unwanted behavior. 

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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