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Can You Sue For Sexual Harassment?

New York State and City Laws Make It Easier to Prove Sexual Harassment

Sexual harassment is sometimes blatant and oftentimes subtle, but can you sue for sexual harassment in New York? Even in the 21st century, too many employees are subjected to offensive remarks, crude jokes, unwanted touching, and sexual advances in the workplace.

Sexual harassment can also be very subtle and confusing. Did that guy brush against you on purpose? Or was it an accident? Are you being overly sensitive? Or was that comment meant to upset you? It often takes time to realize that a series of small incidents are adding up and creating a hostile work environment.

Fortunately, the law is on your side and getting better. Thanks to the “me too” movement, laws have been changed to make it easier to prove sexual harassment and a hostile work environment. Judges and juries are more likely to believe women and men who claim that they were sexually harassed. They are also more likely to award compensatory and punitive damages.

What is Sexual Harassment Defined As?

Sexual harassment is defined as any unwanted sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, or other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature that creates a hostile or offensive work or learning environment.

The key element in a sexual harassment case is that the behavior is unwanted by the recipient and creates a hostile or uncomfortable situation.

Woman putting her hand out and turning away

Examples of Sexual Harassment

Some common examples of sexual harassment include, but are not limited to the following:

  1. Unwanted sexual advances or propositions
  2. Verbal abuse of a sexual nature, such as derogatory comments or slurs
  3. Physical conduct, such as unwanted touching or assault
  4. Displaying sexually explicit materials throughout the workplace
  5. Making sexual jokes or comments about a person or groups of people
  6. Quid pro quo requests for sexual favors
  7. Making threats or retaliation against an individual for refusing sexual gestures
  8. Creating a hostile or intimidating environment for someone because of their gender or sexual orientation

It’s important to note that sexual harassment can be subtle and not always easy to recognize, but it is always unacceptable. Sexual harassment can happen to anyone, regardless of gender, sexual orientation, or any other characteristic.

Statute of Limitations for Sexual Harassment

Lady justice

The statute of limitations for sexual harassment in New York is a bit different depending on the type of legal action being taken.

The statute of limitations for filing a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), which enforces federal anti-discrimination statutes is 180 days from the date of the last claimed instance of harassment. This deadline may be extended to 300 days if a state or municipal agency is simultaneously investigating the alleged harassment.

The statute of limitations for bringing a case under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act is normally 180 or 300 days from the date of the last claimed instance of harassment, depending on the state in which the event happened. It is crucial to remember, however, that some states have shorter or longer statutes of limitations, while others do not have statutes of limitations for sexual harassment. 

The statute of limitations for filing a complaint with the New York State Division of Human Rights (NYSDHR) is 1 year from the date of the last incidence of alleged harassment. However, this time restriction might be extended to three years if the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is simultaneously investigating the alleged harassment (EEOC). 

Under the New York City Human Rights Law, the statute of limitations for launching a case is 3 years from the date of the last incidence of alleged harassment. 

It is crucial to note that the statute of limitations for sexual harassment-related criminal charges may vary, and it is suggested that you speak with an experienced attorney to learn more about the statute of limitations applicable to your individual case.

Fight Back Against Sexual Harassment

In a perfect world, we would not need these laws. People would treat each other with respect. Everyone would value each other for their contributions. Job performance would be judged solely on the quality of your work, without regard to your sex, race, religion, national origin, age, or disability.

The reality is that we do not live in a perfect world. Many people make decisions based on conscious and subconscious biases and prejudices. Some people use their positions at work to satisfy their base desires. Others have a perverse need to prove their own worth by denigrating their co-workers. Some employers take advantage of their employees, while others turn a blind eye to conduct that is unacceptable.

When this happens – when you are subjected to harassment or a hostile work environment because of who you are – the law gives you the tools to fight back.

You have the right to be free from sexual harassment in the workplace. You also have the right to be free from a hostile work environment based on your sex, age, race, religion, national origin, gender, or gender identity.

Whether the harasser is a supervisor, a co-worker, or even a customer, your employer must take steps to protect you and provide a safe working environment. An employer that fails to protect you from illegal harassment in the workplace can be forced to pay compensatory and punitive damages.

You also have the right to be free from retaliation for reporting or opposing a hostile work environment. Once you file a complaint with your employer or a government agency, an adverse employment action by your employer may be considered an act of retaliation. Retaliation can also result in an award of compensatory and punitive damages.

Get Legal Representation Today

So, can you sue for sexual harassment in New York? The answer is yes.

If you have faced sexual harassment or a hostile work environment, get in touch with us here at The Howley Law Firm to discuss your rights. Our team of experienced lawyers are here and ready to help.

You may be entitled to protection from the harassment and a substantial damages award. The initial consultation is free of charge. And if you have a strong case, we will represent you on a contingency fee basis — which means that you will not pay us any attorneys’ fees unless you win.

Call us today at (212) 601-2728 to schedule a free and confidential consultation. 

Feel free to check out the free resources that we have for sexual harassment victims.


Proving a case of harassment can be difficult, however, it is not impossible to prove. Gathering crucial evidence, such as witness statements, emails, text messages, and other forms of documentation can help to strengthen your case. Additionally, if the harassment includes physical contact, medical records or photographs should be used as evidence.

It’s also important to note that proving harassment isn’t only about gathering evidence of the act itself, but also about demonstrating that the behavior created a hostile or intimidating work environment.

There are several types of evidence that can be used to prove your case:

  1. Witness statements: If other people witnessed the harassment or were aware of it, their statements can be used as evidence.
  2. Documentary evidence: This includes things like emails, text messages, or any other form of written communication that contain sexually explicit or inappropriate language, or that demonstrate a pattern of behavior.
  3. Physical evidence: If the harassment includes physical contact, medical records or photographs are great pieces of evidence.
  4. Expert testimony: In some cases, expert testimony from a psychologist or other professional can be used to assess the impact of the harassment on the victim.
  5. Demonstrating patterns of behavior: It is essential to record incidences of harassment immediately, including the date, time, and specifics of the event. This may be useful for exhibiting a pattern of conduct and proving that the harassment was not an isolated incident.

In some circumstances, it is legal to file charges for harassment. Harassment may be a criminal violation, and law enforcement may take action against a harasser who has been identified. 

Depending on the nature of harassment and the jurisdiction, the particular laws and processes for filing harassment charges varies. A person must typically submit a complaint with the proper law enforcement agency, such as the police, and present proof of the harassment. The agency will next examine the complaint, and if sufficient evidence is found, they may file charges against the suspected offender.

Costs associated with bringing harassment charges vary by jurisdiction and kind of harassment. Generally, there is no direct cost associated with filing a complaint with the proper law enforcement agency, such as the police, but you may be required to pay a filing fee for a civil action. 

In most circumstances, the government covers the costs associated with criminal harassment charges; nonetheless, the victim may be required to pay for a medical checkup, treatment, or other expenditures. 

For civil harassment accusations, on the other hand, the victim may be required to pay legal expenses and court costs.

To schedule a free and confidential consultation with a whistleblower lawyer, call John Howley, Esq. at (212) 601-2728.