Joseph and Kirschenbaum has an extensive record advocating and obtaining large recoveries for employees who have been subjected to sexual harassment at work. Sexual harassment can take many different forms, from unwanted sexual advances, to crude jokes, to offensive comments directed at a person's gender, physical appearance, or sexual preferences. Under New York law, sexual harassment is defined as any unwanted sexual conduct or speech that creates a hostile work environment or negatively impacts an employee’s job performance, employment status, or prospects for career advancement. Illegal conduct of this sort may include, but is not limited to:
- Demands for sexual favors from an employee or co-worker;
- The public distribution of sexually explicit materials or pornographic images;
- Inappropriate touching or sexual gestures
- Any verbal or electronic communication that references the sender’s or the recipient’s sexual activities or desires.
Sexual harassment in the workplace is prohibited by Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, as well as the New York State Human Rights Law, and Title 8 of the New York City Administrative Code. These statutes protect all employees, whatever their gender or job title, from sexual harassment of any sort, whether it is coming from their supervisor or a co-worker. To constitute illegal sexual harassment, the unwelcome conduct or speech in question need not be directed specifically at a particular individual. Nor must an employee who has been subjected to unwelcome sexual conduct or speech immediately raise a complaint about these activities in order to be covered by the law.
Employers are legally obligated to maintain a safe working environment and can be held liable if they engage in or permit illegal sexual conduct in the workplace. Employers are responsible for preventing unwelcome sexual conduct or speech in the workplace and are considered legally responsible for responding to any illegal sexual behavior of any sort that comes to their attention. New York law, in particular, imposes especially strict liability on employers for sexual misconduct by supervisors or other employees. Additionally, employers who retaliate or discriminate against employees who have been the victims of sexual harassment or who complain about unwelcome sexual conduct or speech at work can be subject to legal action.
Under the terms of federal, state, and city law, persons who have been the victims of sexual harassment in the workplace are eligible for monetary damages from their employers. Those damages can include compensation for past or future loss of income, and for emotional distress resulting from the harassment or from any subsequent retaliation or discipline suffered by employees for reporting sexual harassment to their employers. Moreover, in New York, individuals who have been found to have engaged in illegal sexual conduct, speech or retaliation can be held personally liable for their actions.
If you believe that you have been the victim of sexual harassment at work or have been retaliated against for resisting or reporting harassment, you should contact an attorney in your area. If you are in the New York region and you are looking for counsel with expertise in this field, please consider contacting Joseph and Kirschenbaum.