Phillips & Associates

Is Same-Sex Sexual Harassment Illegal?

Experienced New York City Attorneys Litigating on Behalf of Employees

Many people assume that actionable workplace sexual harassment occurs when a man in a supervisory or managerial position harasses a female subordinate. However, same-sex sexual harassment is also illegal under federal, state, and local laws. Our firm may be able to help you pursue damages for same-sex sexual harassment. If you are wondering whether same-sex sexual harassment is illegal, do not hesitate to call the New York City sexual harassment lawyers at Phillips & Associates.

Which Laws Prohibit Same-Sex Harassment?

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the New York State Human Rights Law, and the New York City Human Rights Law all prohibit same-sex harassment. As with opposite-sex harassment, same-sex harassment can be perpetrated by a supervisor, manager, coworker, customer, or client.

Title VII is enforced by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), which defines harassment as unwanted sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other actions or words that are sexual and unreasonably interfere with a person's work performance or employment, or that create a hostile work environment. Our employment law firm can evaluate your case and help you understand your rights.

What Counts as Male on Male Harassment?

Most sexual harassment claims filed with the EEOC are filed by women. However, men are filing in increasing numbers. They may be afraid to report their harassment to the EEOC or afraid to file a lawsuit based on state or local laws for fear of having their own sexuality implicated, or due to outdated ideas about masculinity.

The Supreme Court has found that men are protected from workplace sexual harassment by other men under Title VII. That case involved threats of rape. Harassment may include sexual advances from coworkers or supervisors, as well as hazing. Other harassing acts could include innuendoes, groping, invasive touching, unwanted hugs, posting of explicit photos, or lewd gestures.

What Counts as Female on Female Harassment?

Female on female harassment exists, and it can be as devastating to a woman in the workplace as harassment by men. It can include unwanted touching, hugging, kissing, cornering, or groping. It may include explicit photos or pornography. Our attorneys recognize that sexual harassment is often more about power than sexual desire, and the key issue is whether the harassing conduct was based on the victim's sex, rather than on whether the perpetrator has a particular sexual orientation. In a poll, about 10% of women reported being harassed by women.

What About Retaliation?

It can be challenging to complain about sexual harassment, knowing that it could result in being fired or demoted or being given an unfavorable work assignment. Federal, state, and local laws prohibit retaliation with regard to sexual harassment. Retaliation is any adverse action taken against an employee based on their engagement in a protected activity. Filing a complaint with HR or the EEOC or in court about same-sex harassment is a protected activity.

An adverse action is any action that would tend to stop reasonable people from exercising their rights. In addition to obvious retaliation, such as being fired immediately after filing a complaint with HR about sexual harassment, other adverse actions could include unjustified poor performance evaluations, providing a bad reference, or increasing surveillance on an employee. A minor snub does not count as an adverse action.

What is the Difference Between Same-Sex Harassment and Sexual Orientation Discrimination?

State and local laws prohibit sexual orientation discrimination and harassment, as well as same-sex harassment. However, federal law (Title VII) only prohibits sex discrimination, and it prohibits harassment as a subset of sex discrimination. This matters because some situations involving harassment involve harassment based on sexual orientation, rather than the victim's sex. In situations in which you are being harassed because you are gay, lesbian, or bisexual, it is only possible to bring a claim under the New York State Human Rights Law or the New York City Human Rights Law.

Hire a New York City Lawyer to Fight Same-Sex Sexual Harassment

At Phillips & Associates, our attorneys are familiar with same-sex sexual harassment, and we are available to help you. We fight workplace misconduct in Manhattan, the Bronx, Queens, Brooklyn, and Staten Island, Nassau and Suffolk Counties as well as Westchester and New Jersey. Contact us at (212) 248-7431 or through our online form.

PHILLIPS & ASSOCIATES
45 Broadway, #620,
New York NY, 10006
Tel: 212-248-7431
Fax: 212-901-2107
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