Sexual Harassment Claims

 

I think I am being sexually harassed at work.

 

It happened to me: A Real Life Story

 

I think I am being sexually harassed at work, how do I prove it?

 

To show sexual harassment, you must demonstrate that:
1. you are a member of a "protected group," i.e., female;
2. you were subject to unwelcome sexual harassment;
3. the harassment complained of was based upon your membership in the protected class, i.e., women;
4. the harassment complained of affected the terms, conditions or privileges of your employment; and
5.your employer knew or should have known of the harassment.

 

What does "Quid Pro Quo" sexual harassment look like?

 

Quid pro quo sexual harassment occurs when unwelcome sexual conduct—either sexual advances, sexual offers, or verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature— is used by an employer against an employee as the basis for employment decisions. A claim of quid pro quo harassment can be made regardless of whether the sexual favors were refused or accepted by the employee, and since the main issue in quid pro quo claims is unwelcome sexual advances, the employee does not need to suffer economic loss.

 

What does "Hostile Work Environment" sexual harassment look like?

 

A hostile work environment is created when you are subjected to discriminatory intimidation, ridicule, or insult, sufficient to alter your conditions of employment. Generally, single incidences of sexual harassment are not sufficient to show a hostile work environment, but rather an employee must show that the offensive conduct being committed in the workplace is pervasive.

 

How do I show that this conduct affected my ability to work?

 

To show that sexual harassment affected your ability to work, you must show that the behavior was sufficiently severe, pervasive, and offensive to a reasonable person in a similar situation. To determine the severity of the harassment, the "totality of the circumstances," or your overall working conditions, will be reviewed.

 

How do I show that my employer knew what was going on?

 

To show that your employer knew what was going on, you must demonstrate that either your employer was participating in the actual harassment by contributing to the hostile work environment or, if the harassment was being conducted by co-workers, that your employer (or supervisor) was informed of the hostile environment and made no effort to deter the harassment.

 

Can I file a claim against my boss/supervisor under the New York State Law?

 

Yes. Under New York State law, you may bring a claim of sexual harassment against your employer and anyone individually responsible for creating a hostile work environment, as long as your supervisor/employer was aware of the harassment and did nothing to correct it. You may also bring an claim against your supervisor as an individual if your supervisor was an active participant in the alleged sexual harassment.

 

Can I bring a claim against my co-worker if he is not my boss or supervisor?

 

Yes. Under New York State law you may bring a claim of sexual harassment against your employer and anyone individually responsible for creating a hostile work environment.

 

I complained to my employer and they reprimanded the harasser. Can I still win my claim?

 

Unfortunately, it is not likely that you can make a successful claim. Under New York law if you notify your employer of a hostile work environment and your employer promptly investigates the situation and reprimands the harasser(s) so that you are no longer subjected to a hostile work environment, then it is likely your claim will not be successful.

 

I reported to my employer, but they didn’t do anything – can I still file a claim?

 

Absolutely. If you can show that your employer knew, or at least should have known, that harassment was occurring and your employer "failed to take appropriate measures to halt such conduct," there is a strong basis for a claim.

 

What if my harasser is also a woman?

 

The Supreme Court has ruled that sex discrimination claims for same-sex sexual harassment can be brought under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Since the New York Human Rights Law mirrors the language of Title VII, same-sex sexual harassment would also be actionable in New York. If you are being harassed because of your sex, it doesn’t matter whether your harasser is a man or a woman.

 

Is one incident of sexual harassment a sufficient basis for a claim?

 

Generally speaking, a single incident of sexual misconduct is not sufficient to establish a claim of a hostile work environment. The hostile work environment is usually established by severe and pervasive incidents of sexual misconduct. However, single incidents of quid pro quo sexual harassment are sufficient to establish a claim.

 

Can I get damages for emotional distress?

 

Under New York State Human Rights Law you may be entitled to damages associated with mental anguish if your claim is successful.

 

What is the difference between sex discrimination and sexual harassment?

 

Sex discrimination occurs when hiring, firing, and promotion practices are based on an employee’s gender. Sexual harassment, on the other hand, occurs when a woman is subjected to a hostile work environment that is pervasively offensive to a reasonable person in her situation, or if a woman is subjected to sexual offers or advances in which her reaction or response to such advances serve as the basis for employment decisions.

 

 


Legal Glossary

 

Return to Main New York Page

 

Return to Types of Discrimination

 

Return to States