Phillips & Associates

What do I do if I've Been Sexually Harassed by Someone in a Position of Power?

What do I do if I've been sexually harassed by someone in a position of power?

The power dynamic in a discrimination case is very important, specifically in a sexual harassment case, because oftentimes you have a high-level executive engaging in the sexual harassment against a lower-level employee. That lower-level employee, they're afraid to jeopardize their career. They're afraid to make a complaint against the highest level executive, for example a CFO, a CEO, the president, the owner of the company.

They're afraid that a complaint will mean career suicide. So they endure that harassment day in and day out. The harasser is taking advantage of that dynamic. They're taking advantage of the fact that they're in a high position of power and they control every aspect of that person's job. That's why I like it when people come to me because we can sort of turn the tables and we can change that balance of power.

Sexual Harassment Lawyers Advocating for New York City Employees

Power dynamics in sexual harassment cases are important. When a high-level executive sexually harasses a lower-level employee, the lower-level employee is likely to fear confronting the high-level executive. They may even doubt whether their interpretation of what happened is correct. It may be particularly frightening to complain about a CEO or CFO at your company, since to do so may mean getting blacklisted within a field. If you are wondering what to do if you have been sexually harassed by someone in a position of power, the New York City sexual harassment attorneys at Phillips & Associates may be able to help you figure out your next steps and represent you.

What do I do if I've been sexually harassed by someone in a position of power?

It is common for victims of sexual harassment by someone in a position of power to endure the harassment for fear of losing a job or even their career. The harasser takes advantage of this dynamic, in which they control all of the aspects of someone's job.

Federal, state, and local laws work together to make sexual harassment prohibited, no matter the size of the employer. Sexual harassment may take the form of a quid pro quo in which a person of power or authority conditions your keeping your job or gaining another job benefit on performing some sort of sexual favor. The job benefit may be hiring, continued employment, promotion, a good job assignment, or another term or condition of employment. Generally, only someone who is in a position of power like a manager, supervisor, or CEO could engage in this type of harassment.

Alternatively, sexual harassment may take the form of a hostile work environment involving unwanted words, jokes, pranks, intimidation, assault, or rape that happen so frequently or so severely that they create a work environment that is offensive or hostile to the employee or interfere with the employee's job performance.

Sexual harassment may be opposite-sex or same-sex. Even one instance of sexual inappropriateness may be enough to be considered sexual harassment.

A single action involving sexual behavior may be sufficient to bring a sexual harassment claim, depending on how severe it was. The law requires that the behavior be severe or pervasive, such that one joke or comment may not be enough to be sexual harassment. However, courts have held that a single incident might be considered sexual harassment, depending on the circumstances.

Generally, an employer will be held strictly liable for harassment of an employee by a high-level manager or the owner of the company. Thus, if just one of several partners sexually harasses an employee, the employer may be held responsible even without the knowledge of the other owners. Employers may also be strictly liable when a lower-level manager harasses an employee when the perpetrator has enough control over the victim's terms and conditions of employment. This is important because even if the owner does not know that this is happening, the company may be held responsible for an improperly trained or out-of-control supervisor or manager.

Your employment manual should include information about how to file an internal grievance and to whom you should report the sexual harassment. In many cases, you will need to file a complaint with HR. Once you complain about the harassment to any supervisor or manager, this knowledge is imputed to the employer. It is wise to put your complaint into writing, note the date and time, and quote the perpetrator if the harassment involves words.

Seek Assistance from a Knowledgeable Lawyer in New York City

Very often, sexual harassment is more about power than about uncontrolled sexual or romantic urges. Our experienced New York City attorneys can advise you on what to do if you have been sexually harassed by someone in a position of power. Contact us online or at (212) 248-7431 for a free appointment with an employment discrimination lawyer. We battle employment discrimination in the Bronx, Queens, Brooklyn, Manhattan, and Staten Island, as well as Nassau, Suffolk, and Westchester Counties and New Jersey.

45 Broadway, #620,
New York NY, 10006
Tel: 212-248-7431
Fax: 212-901-2107

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