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Can Sexual Harassment be Verbal?

Sexual harassment can definitely be verbal. Examples of that would be inappropriate comments by a supervisor, co-worker, a patron, of a sexual nature or romantic nature. You could be asked out, comments about your body, sexually propositioning in any way, shape, or form could very well be sexual harassment. In fact, text messages, emails, written notes, anything can be sexual harassment if it is about your body or sexual or romantic in nature. If it makes you uncomfortable and you're worried about how can you prove it, you should still give us a call because there are ways that we can discuss how you go about doing that. We handle he-said/she-said cases all the time, and just because you do not have a written proof that this happened does not mean that there is not a potential case to be heard.

New York City Attorneys Assisting Victims of Sexual Harassment

Some people assume that sexual harassment involves touching. However, sexual harassment may be verbal. Remarks by your supervisor, coworker, client, or customer of a sexual or romantic nature may be sexual harassment. If comments or statements make you uncomfortable, but you are concerned about whether you can proceed with a harassment case and prove either what was said or how frequent it was, you should call us. At Phillips & Associates, our New York City sexual harassment lawyers handle these types of lawsuits regularly, so even if you do not have written proof, it may be possible for us to take your case. We can discuss what was said, how to go about getting proof, and other issues.

Can Sexual Harassment Be Verbal?

Sexual harassment in the workplace may involve comments about your body, innuendoes, jokes, or requests for sexual favors. Text messages, written notes, emails, and other communications may also be sexual harassment if they refer to your body or are sexual or romantic.

There are two kinds of sexual harassment: hostile work environment and quid pro quo. Frequent or severe comments of a sexual or romantic nature may create a hostile work environment. For example, if your boss is always making comments about your body, this may be sexual harassment. Similarly, if your coworker or customer will not stop asking you out, this may be sexual harassment.

You should ask the perpetrator of the harassment to stop. Although this may be emotionally challenging to do, you do not want the perpetrator to come back after a lawsuit is filed and truthfully say that they did not know that you were made uncomfortable by the remarks or that they were encouraged because you smiled or were polite. In some cases, confrontation works. In other cases, the harassment continues or worsens, or a request for your manager or supervisor to stop results in retaliation.

The circumstances will dictate whether your employer will be liable for verbal sexual harassment by a supervisor, coworker, customer, or client. If your harasser is your supervisor, there is a potential for direct and strict liability for all of the damages. Employers may be held liable for verbal harassment by a coworker, customer, or client only if the employer knew or should have known that you were being harassed but did not take prompt corrective steps.


Under federal, state, and local laws, it is unlawful for your employer to retaliate against you for filing a complaint about verbal harassment. Retaliation exists when an employee opposes a prohibited practice under the law, files a complaint, testifies, or helps with any proceeding related to sexual harassment, and they suffer an adverse employment action by the employer as a result.

Bringing a Claim

You may be able to bring a charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) under Title VII if your employer has 15 or more employees. Under Title VII, you need to file the charge before you file a federal lawsuit, and you have a limited amount of time to do this. However, in many cases, it may be better to file under local law. More expansive remedies are available, and in most cases, it is easier to establish your sexual harassment claim under the city law than it is under the New York State Human Rights Law or Title VII.


Remedies that may be available for verbal sexual harassment under the New York City Human Rights Law include:

  • Hiring or reinstatement,
  • Discipline of the harasser,
  • Back pay,
  • Front pay,
  • Compensatory damages like emotional distress damages, and
  • Remedial measures in the workplace.

Consult Our New York City Lawyers for Guidance and Representation

An incident of verbal sexual harassment may be extremely distressing. Our experienced New York City attorneys are familiar with these types of cases and can advise you on the legal recourse available to you if you have faced verbal sexual harassment. Contact us online or at (866) 229-9441 for a free appointment. We help people who need a gender discrimination lawyer in Manhattan, Queens, Staten Island, the Bronx, and Brooklyn, as well as Nassau, Suffolk, and Westchester Counties and New Jersey.