What is Considered Sexual Harassment at Work?

What constitutes sexual harassment at work is any unwelcome and offensive comments or touchings that are of a sexual or a romantic nature. It is very important that if one feels like that they are being sexually harassed at work that they understand what the company’s policies are regarding sexual harassment and what the appropriate complaint procedure is for them to be fully protected by the law. It is especially important that if someone feels like they are being sexually harassed by a vendor, patron, or independent contractor that they complain to a supervisor or to human resources regarding the contact in order for them to appropriately protected under the law.

Employment Lawyers Advocating for New York City Workers

Sexual harassment in the workplace includes any unwelcome and offensive words, gestures, or actions that are of a sexual or romantic nature. If you believe that you are being sexually harassed on the job, you should find out what your company's policies are and which internal complaint procedures are in place to protect you. In order to be fully protected by the law, you will need to follow those procedures. It may be especially critical to complain to a supervisor or HR if you feel that a vendor, patron, or independent contractor is sexually harassing you. At Phillips & Associates, our New York City sexual harassment lawyers can provide advice and representation in connection with claims arising from workplace misconduct. Watch the video on this page to understand more about this issue.

What is Considered Sexual Harassment at Work?

Unwelcome sexual harassment in the workplace may include slurs, pornographic images, sexual innuendoes, comments about sex, sexual jokes, and any other words or actions related to your sex. The victim and perpetrator need not be of opposite sexes. Moreover, you may bring a sexual harassment claim even if you are not a direct victim of the harassment but are in a workplace where you witness sexual harassment. For example, if your coworker is forced to submit to sexual harassment in order to keep their job, you may bring a sexual harassment complaint.

There are two types of sexual harassment. In quid pro quo harassment, an employment decision is based on your submitting to the harassment. For example, if you are required to submit to unwelcome sexual advances in order to get a promotion or to keep your job, this is quid pro quo harassment. The harassment may be explicit or implicit.

A common form of sexual harassment is hostile work environment harassment. This is conduct or speech that makes your workplace environment offensive, hostile, or intimidating to a reasonable person. For example, if a coworker is constantly sending you links to pornography, or your supervisor watches pornography on the job in front of you, this may create a hostile work environment.

Factors that may be used to decide whether a hostile work environment was created include whether the conduct consisted of words, actions, or both, as well as:

  • How often it happened;
  • Whether the conduct was hostile or obviously offensive;
  • Whether the harasser was a coworker or supervisor;
  • Whether others besides the defendant also perpetrated the harassment; and
  • Whether the harassment was directed at more than one person.

When the harasser is a coworker, the issue will be whether your employer did anything to correct the situation. An employer may be held strictly liable for a supervisor or manager's sexually harassing conduct.

You should use any internal grievance procedure that is in place to complain about the harassment before filing a charge with the EEOC or suing your employer in state court. It is important to give your employer a chance to correct the situation before suing. Some employers will take immediate steps to correct the situation once they know that sexual harassment is occurring.

Retain a Knowledgeable Sexual Harassment Attorney in New York City

Sexual harassment at work is often quite distressing for a victim and sometimes for those around the victim. Sexual harassment laws prohibit retaliation, so you should proceed with filing an internal complaint, charge, or lawsuit as appropriate. At Phillips & Associates, our New York City attorneys have substantial experience advising and representing employees in sexual harassment matters. Contact us online or call us at (866) 229-9441 if you need a harassment or discrimination attorney. We fight for employees in the Bronx, Queens, Staten Island, Brooklyn, and Manhattan, as well as Suffolk, Nassau, and Westchester Counties.