Workplace sexual harassment is illegal under the gender discrimination provisions of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (“Title VII”), the New York State Human Rights Law (NYSHRL), and the New York City Human Rights Law (NYCHRL).
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC)—the federal government agency tasked with enforcing Title VII—defines sexual harassment as “unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature” which affects an individual’s employment or creates an intimidating or offensive workplace environment. Under Title VII and the NYSHRL, which tracks the definition under Title VII, the sexual harassment must be “severe or pervasive” in order to meet the threshold for an unlawfully hostile work environment.
Under the NYCHRL, which covers all employers in the City of New York, the standard for a sexually hostile work environment is much more inclusive. There is no requirement that harassment be severe or pervasive in order to be actionable under NYCHRL; in fact, a single act of harassment may be sufficient to constitute illegal sexual harassment. Liability is determined by the mere existence of unequal treatment, and questions of severity and frequency are reserved for consideration of damages. Also, unlike Title VII and the NYSHRL, which only cover employers who maintain at least 15 employees, there is no minimum number of employees requirement under the NYCHRL; any New York City employee is eligible to bring a claim of sexual harassment under the NYCHRL, regardless of the size of their employer.
Sexual harassment is legally considered to be a form of sex discrimination, and can happen to anyone, regardless of gender: for example, if the harasser is female and the victim is male, or if the victim and the harasser are the same gender. Sexual harassment is usually categorized in one of two ways: “quid pro quo” or “hostile environment.”Quid Pro Quo
Quid pro quo sexual harassment occurs where an employer conditions an employee’s employment on their submission to the employer’s unwanted sexual advances—for example, if an employer demands sexual favors from an employee in exchange for the employee to keep their job or in exchange for something which affects the employee’s job, like a raise or promotion.Hostile Environment
Hostile environment sexual harassment is characterized by a pattern of offensive, unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, or other sexual conduct that interferes with an employee’s ability to perform their job and creates an intimidating, hostile, or abusive work environment. This type of sexual harassment may be less obvious or straightforward than quid pro quo sexual harassment and can include inappropriate or suggestive remarks or gestures, gender-based criticisms, questions about an employee’s sexual preferences, and sexual touching, among other things.Your Rights
You do not have to tolerate sexual harassment in your workplace or school. The Harman Firm, LLP offers the experience, support, and dedication you need to handle a sexual harassment lawsuit. If you have been the victim of sexual harassment in the workplace, contact The Harman Firm, LLP, today.