Visual Sexual Harassment

Visual Sexual Harassment

New York City Lawyers Advocating for Victims of Workplace Misconduct

Sexual harassment involves offensive and unwanted conduct of a sexual nature. Sometimes there is flirting in the office between coworkers or even between a supervisor and an employee. However, if either party makes clear that they are not interested, the other party should not persist. Workplace sexual harassment can include words, physical acts, or visual gestures or images. If you faced visual sexual harassment on the job, you should consult the experienced New York City sexual harassment lawyers at Phillips & Associates.

Visual Sexual Harassment

Visual sexual harassment is an assault to an employee's sight. It can include obscene gestures and looks or sexually explicit images in the forms of office posters, email attachments, photographs, screensavers, wallpaper on a computer, nude calendars, and other graphic images that offend. Visual sexual harassment in New York City is prohibited under the New York City Human Rights Law, the New York State Human Rights Law, and Title VII.

City Law

The New York City Human Rights Law is one of the most expansive anti-discrimination laws in the country, and in many situations, it is the best law under which to pursue your visual sexual harassment claim. Unlike with state law, you can recover punitive damages. Unlike with federal law, you can recover compensatory and punitive damages without a cap (subject to constitutional limits).

Sexual harassment that results in a hostile work environment is a type of employment discrimination. Generally, a hostile work environment exists if the workplace is permeated with insults, ridicule, or discriminatory acts that are severe or pervasive enough to change the victim's workplace conditions and create a hostile work environment. The workplace must be hostile from the victim's own perspective as well as a reasonable person's perspective, and this must be assessed from the totality of the circumstances.

Sometimes visual sexual harassment is a borderline situation or could be interpreted as a trivial inconvenience or petty slight. However, the primary issue under city law is whether the plaintiff has proven that it is more likely than not that they have been treated less well than other employees due to their gender.

State Law

Under the New York State Human Rights Law, it is illegal for an employer not to hire, to fire, or to otherwise discriminate against a job applicant or employee in the terms, conditions, or privileges of employment due to gender. In many respects, the state law mirrors the federal law.

In most cases, a trivial, one-off event will not count as visual sexual harassment under state law. How frequent the discriminatory conduct is, its severity, and whether it unreasonably interferes with your job performance will go into the analysis of whether it is actionable. For example, if your boss is watching pornography in his office with the door closed, and you walked in one time and saw this, the single minor event may not be actionable under the state law. However, if your boss watches pornography in an open space area where multiple employees work, and he does this repeatedly, this may rise to the level of an actionable hostile work environment.

Federal Law

Visual sexual harassment may also constitute a hostile work environment under Title VII. However, Title VII applies only to larger employers, which are those with at least 15 employees. It also caps compensatory damages based on the size of the employer. In most cases, it is wiser to proceed under the city law, which is the most expansive and protective. However, you should consult with an experienced attorney who understands the strategic implications of proceeding under each of these laws.

Get Advice from a Knowledgeable New York City Attorney

Exposure to visual sexual harassment, whether it is gestures or pictures, is distressing and degrading for victims. Sexual and graphic images do not belong in the workplace. If you have faced visual sexual harassment at your job, you should consult an experienced employment litigator. You can contact Phillips & Associates at (866) 229-9441 or through our online form for a free consultation. We handle employment litigation in the Bronx, Queens, Brooklyn, and Manhattan, as well as Westchester, Nassau, and Suffolk Counties, and in New Jersey.

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