Phillips & Associates

Same Sex Sexual Harassment of Women by Women

New York City Attorneys Protecting the Rights of Employees

A nonprofit called Stop Street Harassment conducted research and discovered that 81% of women have experienced some form of sexual harassment during their lifetimes. Many people associate sexual harassment with harassment by the opposite sex, assuming that sexual harassment of women would mostly be by men. However, same-sex sexual harassment of women by women does occur, just like same-sex sexual harassment of men by men, and it can be just as demeaning and painful. It is prohibited in New York. At Phillips & Associates, our New York City sexual harassment lawyers are familiar with same-sex sexual harassment lawsuits, and we may be able to help you recover damages.

Same-Sex Sexual Harassment of Women by Women

Sexual harassment is rarely just about sex. Instead, it is about power. As a result, it can be perpetrated by a person of either sex against a person of the same sex or the opposite sex, or someone who is transgender. Same-sex sexual harassment is prohibited under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the New York State Human Rights Law, and the New York City Human Rights Law. A perpetrator of same-sex sexual harassment can be a CEO, manager, supervisor, coworker, client, or customer.

Title VII is the federal law that prohibits sexual harassment. It is enforced by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). The EEOC has defined it as unwelcome physical or verbal conduct of a sexual nature. The EEOC has recognized that it can be difficult to distinguish among invited sexual advances, uninvited but welcome sexual advances, offensive sexual advances that are tolerated, and sexual advances that are unwelcome and flatly rejected. However, sexual harassment of a woman by a woman is illegal under Title VII if it is unwelcome — that is, not solicited or incited and perceived as undesirable or offensive.

For example, the EEOC pursued a Title VII claim against a bank that allowed a female manager and a female employee to create a sexually hostile work environment for a class of female employees. The four female bank tellers who complained about the environment routinely dealt with graphic sexual comments, gestures, and images from a female service manager and a female bank teller. Their bodies and sex lives were discussed, and the female service manager and female bank teller inappropriately touched and grabbed them. The offensive behavior was reported to higher-ups many times, but the bank failed to take effective action. One employee quit because going to work became demeaning and humiliating.

Same-sex sexual harassment of women by women is also prohibited under the New York State Human Rights Law and the New York City Human Rights Law. As with Title VII, same-sex sexual harassment under these laws can involve unwanted touching, physical violence, groping, kissing, sexually charged comments, pornographic images, and more. The critical issue is whether the harassment was based on your sex, rather than on whether the perpetrator is straight, lesbian, or bisexual.

However, it can be difficult to determine whether sexual harassment is based on the victim's sex, sexual orientation, or gender identity. In situations in which you are harassed due to your sexual orientation — because you are lesbian or bisexual — it is usually best to pursue remedies under the state or local laws. That is because the New York State Human Rights Law and the New York City Human Rights Law provide express protection for sexual orientation discrimination, including harassment due to the victim's sexual orientation.

It can be frightening to complain about sexual harassment by anyone in the workplace, including another woman. You may be concerned that you have misinterpreted something, or that the perpetrator will defend herself by arguing that she is not lesbian or bisexual and that others will believe her instead of you. However, it is illegal for your employer to retaliate against you. The broadest anti-retaliation provisions are under the New York City Human Rights Law. As long as you have a good-faith belief that you have been sexually harassed, you are protected against retaliation.

Get Advice from a Sexual Harassment Lawyer in the New York City Region

Our experienced attorneys are familiar with same-sex discrimination and harassment cases in New York City. We can advise you on your options for legal recourse if you have encountered same-sex sexual harassment of women by women in the workplace. Call us at (212) 248-7431 or contact us via our online form for a free consultation with a knowledgeable lawyer. We fight employment discrimination in the Bronx, Queens, Brooklyn, and Manhattan, as well as in Westchester, Nassau, and Suffolk Counties and in New Jersey.

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