Silvia Stanciu is an attorney at Phillips & Associates who handles employment litigation cases. In 2018 and 2019, Ms. Stanciu was named to the list of Rising Stars by Super Lawyers. Super Lawyers rates top attorneys in many practice areas in each state. Super Lawyers also asks the lawyers whom it identifies as top attorneys to answer important questions on issues of public concern. Recently, Super Lawyers asked Ms. Stanciu to answer the question of whether you can sue your employer for sexual harassment by a coworker in New York.
What Constitutes Sexual Harassment?
Ms. Stanciu explained that any unwelcome sexual conduct by a coworker or supervisor is considered sexual harassment. Generally, sexual harassment falls into one of two categories: quid pro quo or hostile work environment. Quid pro quo, which means “this for that” in Latin, is the term used for sexual harassment that is transactional. For example, if you are pressured to perform or asked to perform sexual acts in exchange for a promotion or raise, this may be quid pro quo harassment. In other words, quid pro quo harassment happens when a person receives or does not receive an employment-related benefit based on whether he or she is willing to partake in sexual conduct with someone in a position of authority in the workplace.
As Ms. Stanciu clarified, a hostile work environment occurs when unwanted sexual attention, comments, or behavior interferes with a person’s ability to perform his or her job duties. Under federal law, the offensive conduct must be severe or pervasive to create a hostile work environment. Examples of behavior that is considered sexual harassment include sexually explicit emails, texts, or comments, comments about a person’s sexuality, appearance, or body, requests for sexual favors, and modifying work duties after a denial of a sexual request. Anyone can be a victim of sexual harassment, regardless of his or her age, sex, sexual orientation, or gender.
What to Do if a Coworker Is Sexually Harassing You
Ms. Stanciu also described what you should do if a coworker is sexually harassing you. She cautioned that you must take certain steps to protect your right to pursue a legal claim against your employer if it fails to stop the harassment. First, you must make a complaint regarding the sexual harassment to your employer, which has a legal obligation to address your coworker's behavior. If your company has a handbook or guidelines regarding how a sexual harassment complaint must be filed, you should follow them.
Ms. Stanciu further explained that if your employer is unwilling or unable to stop the harassment, the next step is to file a charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). The EEOC will investigate your claim and may request that you engage in mediation with your employer. It is important to note, however, that you cannot sue your employer for sexual harassment in federal court until you are granted a right to sue letter from the EEOC. Although it is not required, it is prudent to retain an experienced employment litigation attorney prior to filing your EEOC charge.
If the EEOC is also unable to resolve the issue, you can then file a lawsuit against your employer. A skilled employment attorney can analyze the facts surrounding your harassment to assess the strength of your case and determine your potential causes of action and which evidence is needed to prove your claim.
Discuss Your Case With a Trusted New York Attorney
Everyone has a right to work without fear of facing inappropriate sexual behavior or retribution for refusing to provide sexual favors. If you are experiencing sexual harassment in the workplace, Ms. Stanciu and the attorneys at Phillips & Associates can assist you in seeking damages from your employer. You can contact us at (866) 229-9441 or via our online form to set up a meeting regarding your case. We represent people harmed by sexual harassment in the workplace in lawsuits in New York City, as well as Westchester, Nassau, and Suffolk Counties, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania.