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Sexual Harassment Study Reveals Important Trends in New York State

William K. Phillips

Phillips & Associates is a leading employment law firm that has represented many victims of sexual harassment. Since the #MeToo movement, which showed that many more people have been sexually harassed than was popularly understood to be the case, more and more survivors of workplace sexual harassment have stepped forward. Sexual harassment can wreak economic and emotional damage on the harassed employee’s life, and the employee may have remedies under federal, state, and local laws. Recently, a report entitled “Stopping Sexual Harassment in the Empire State: Past, Present, and a Possible Future” was published. The authors of the report, Sanjay Pinto, K.C. Wagner, and Zoe West, map existing patterns of workplace sexual harassment in the State of New York. Our New York City sexual harassment lawyers reviewed this report closely.

New Report: Stopping Sexual Harassment in the Empire State

The report contextualizes efforts to confront sexual and gender-based harassment, showing how they have changed over time, and suggests potential future directions. Sexual harassment can be categorized either as quid pro quo harassment or as hostile work environment harassment. Quid pro quo harassment occurs when employment is conditioned on acquiescing to requests for sexual favors or sexual advances. It is perpetrated by people with authority over an employee, such as a manager or supervisor. Hostile work environment harassment exists when harassing conduct is so severe or so pervasive that it creates a hostile or offensive work environment. It can be perpetrated by managers, supervisors, coworkers, clients, or customers of the employer.

The report shared survey findings and also talked about the experiences of survivors, and how different identities and relations of power shape those experiences. It discussed black women’s leadership in steering wide-reaching changes to law and culture, as well as the efforts made by diverse survivors to change certain industries.

Report Findings

The report’s findings drew from the 2018 Empire State Poll, which is a yearly phone survey of 800 New Yorkers by the Cornell Survey Research Institute. However, in order to broaden the picture, the researchers added four questions to address the prevalence of different kinds of sexual harassment, their effects, and beliefs about how leaders should respond.

The survey found that around 10.9% of residents of New York had suffered from quid pro quo sexual harassment. Among the respondents, 13.9% of people of color and people of Hispanic origin had suffered from quid pro quo sexual harassment, as opposed to 8.5% of non-Hispanic whites. This is an area for further research. 21.9% of New York residents had suffered from workplace sexual harassment that had generated a hostile work environment.

Both women and men had experienced at least one kind of harassment, with 31.1% of women experiencing at least one kind of harassment and 18.9% of men experiencing at least one kind of harassment. Of those who experienced at least one kind of sexual harassment on the job, 38.9% said that it affected their careers. 48.9% of those who suffered from quid pro quo harassment reported an impact on their careers.

83.4% of New York residents believe that leaders should take bigger steps to prevent sexual harassment. The study found notable differences according to respondents’ ideology and politics, but regardless of worldview, strong majorities believed that leaders needed to do more.

Future Directions

The report also looked at future approaches to addressing such a huge workplace problem, asking how to shift the power dynamics that enable harassing conduct. The report recommends that we look at workplace sexual harassment as a deeply embedded institutional issue, rather than as an issue that can be solved through punishment of individual harassers. The abuse of power is frequent and widespread and therefore needs to be addressed on a large scale. The report calls for working groups, led by survivors, to pioneer cultural changes, inform effective enforcement, and facilitate high-road practices that go beyond simple compliance. It also calls for the expansion of organizational and policy approaches that help promote prevention through several points of intervention, rather than simply providing redress for survivors.

Retain a Knowledgeable Sexual Harassment Attorney

At Phillips & Associates, we understand the emotional and economic toll that is suffered by people who have experienced sexual harassment in the workplace in and around New York City. As the study described above shows, sexual harassment is a pervasive problem in workplaces across many different industries. You may be able to hold your employer accountable and obtain redress through a lawsuit for damages under the New York City Human Rights Law, the New York State Human Rights Law, or Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. Call us at (833) 529-3476 or contact us through our online form. We represent sexual harassment survivors in Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, the Bronx, and Staten Island, as well as Nassau, Suffolk, and Westchester Counties.

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