Often, when there has been unlawful touching in the workplace, it has been behind closed doors. There may not be any witnesses to corroborate the victim's version of what happened, as there might be with inappropriate verbal remarks or jokes. An isolated incident of unlawful touching can be so severe that it is both a crime and an instance of sexual harassment. If you were subject to unlawful touching in the workplace, our New York City sexual harassment attorneys may be able to file suit to recover damages for you.Unlawful Touching
Unlawful touching can include any offensive touching, touching by a supervisor, sexual advances, physical advances, physical contact with intimate body parts, or cornering a victim so that they cannot escape physical contact. It can occur in a cubicle or in a private office, or at an after-hours work function, like a holiday party.
Unlawful touching in the workplace is likely to be considered sexual harassment. Sexual harassment occurs when unwelcome verbal or physical behavior is a term or condition of continued employment. Most of the time, a single incident of harassment is not enough to be actionable.
Unlawful touching could be construed as quid pro quo harassment or hostile work environment harassment. Quid pro quo harassment exists when a supervisor or manager offers job benefits or privileges in exchange for a sexual favor. The request could involve unlawful touching as a sexual overture. Hostile work environment harassment generally does not encompass one-off events, but since unlawful touching is sexual assault, which is a crime, it may be sufficient to be considered actionable sexual harassment even if there is only one instance of it.
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has found that unwelcome touching of an intimate body part is offensive enough to constitute a violation. It has stated that a single unwanted physical advance can significantly poison the environment, and the burden will shift to the employer to show that it was not severe enough to create a hostile work environment.
Generally, a company can be held liable for unlawful touching by a supervisor or manager, even if it did not know that the unlawful touching took place. It is a good idea to notify a company that a supervisor or manager harassed you, but liability does not necessarily depend on notice, since the supervisor or manager is an agent of the company.
However, if the unlawful touching is by a coworker or customer, you need to indicate that the touching is unwelcome, and you also need to notify the company through its formal complaint mechanism. Often, a formal complaint mechanism is specified in an employment handbook. However, if none is specified in your employment handbook, you should complain both in person and in writing to HR. Otherwise, the company may defend itself by arguing that it did not know that unlawful touching happened and that it had no opportunity to rectify the situation.
It can also help to document incidents of unlawful touching at the time that they occur in a written journal. The journal can help substantiate your claim that unlawful touching occurred, particularly if nobody else saw what happened.
The damages that you can recover for unlawful touching vary from case to case. Your attorney may be able to help you recover back pay, emotional distress damages, and out-of-pocket costs. For example, you may be able to recover the costs of searching for a new job, or of therapy based on the unlawful touching. Although you may be entitled to reinstatement, you may not wish to return to a work environment where you were subject to unlawful touching, and your relationship with your employer may have broken down to a point at which reinstatement would be sub-optimal for both of you. As a result, you may also recover front pay. In some cases, punitive damages would be appropriate in egregious episodes of unlawful touching.Retain a Sexual Harassment Lawyer to Advocate on Your Behalf in New York City
At Phillips & Associates, we fight many forms of employer misconduct, including sexual harassment in the form of unlawful touching, and we may be able to help you recover damages. Our New York City attorneys represent workers in the Bronx, Queens, Brooklyn, Manhattan, and Staten Island, as well as Nassau and Suffolk Counties, Westchester County, and New Jersey. Contact us at (212) 248-7431 or through our online form.
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