Protecting Your Right to be Free from Sexual Harassment
You have the right to be free from sexual harassment in the workplace and on college campuses. Your employer or college must take steps to protect you from unwelcome sexual advances, sexually offensive comments, and inappropriate touching. You also have the right to report sexual harassment and demand that it stop without fear of retaliation.
If you have suffered from sexual harassment, you may be entitled to recover compensation for lost earnings, denial of a promotion, raise or educational opportunity, emotional distress, and punitive damages. You may also be entitled to an injunction or court order protecting you from future harassment and retaliation.
At The Howley Law Firm, we have decades of experience representing individuals in sexual harassment cases. We have fought to protect the rights of executives, professionals, employees, domestic workers, and college students. We understand the emotional stress that sexual harassment causes, and we work diligently to protect your rights and fight for the justice you deserve.
Click here to download our free guide to sexual harassment cases. Read our answers to frequently asked questions (FAQ) below. Then give us a call at (212) 601-2728 to discuss your case in confidence with an experienced, compassionate attorney who will help you understand your rights and options.
What is Sexual Harassment?
Sexual harassment is a form of sex discrimination. It includes many different types of unwelcome or offensive behavior that is directed at you because of your sex.
The law recognizes two forms of sexual harassment. The first is called quid pro quo sexual harassment. This occurs when the offensive conduct is made a condition of your employment or advancement. For example, quid pro quo sexual harassment occurs when a supervisor refuses to give you a raise or promotion unless you agree to go out on a date.
The second form of sexual harassment is called a hostile work environment. This occurs when the unwelcome conduct is so severe that it affects your work or educational environment, unreasonably interferes with your performance, or creates an intimidating, hostile or offensive environment. A hostile work environment usually requires a pattern of offensive conduct over a period of time, but one severe incident may be enough to create a claim for damages.
The harassment does not have to be sexual in nature. The key is that it is directed at you because of your sex. For example, a supervisor who belittles or ridicules women may be guilty of sexual harassment. Similarly, a supervisor who treats you differently because you do not conform to a sexual stereotype may be engaging in sexual harassment.
An experienced lawyer can help you understand whether you have a claim for sexual harassment by considering your specific facts and circumstances. Call us at (212) 601-2728 to schedule a free and confidential consultation to discuss your case.
What are some examples of quid pro quo sexual harassment?
Quid pro quo sexual harassment occurs when the harasser states or implies that employment or academic decisions will be made based on your submission to or rejection of sexual advances. Some common examples include:
- telling you that getting a promotion depends on you sleeping with the boss;
- insisting that you go out to dinner if you want a better work assignment;
- implying that getting a raise is dependent on your submission to sexual conduct;
- suggesting that you will not receive a good grade or letter of recommendation if you refuse to go out on a date;
- insinuating that your employment, wages, or promotional opportunities will be negatively affected if you turn down sexual advances.
What types of conduct can create a hostile work environment?
Sexual comments or gender-based hostility can create an intimidating, hostile or offensive work environment if the conduct is severe or pervasive. Some types of conduct that can create such a hostile work environment include:
- frequent and inappropriate leering, staring, or looking at you with “elevator eyes” (looking you up and down);
- sexually explicit jokes or degrading language;
- whistling, cat calls, or indecent gestures;
- asking about your sexual preferences, fantasies, or activities;
- unwanted physical contact such as hugging, rubbing, touching, patting, pinching, or massaging;
- comments about your body, appearance, dress, or relationships;
- sexual phone calls, text messages, or emails;
- sending or displaying sexually explicit images;
- repeatedly asking for a date after you have expressed disinterest.
Should I report the sexual harassment to my employer or college?
The answer is almost always yes. Most employers and colleges have a formal process for filing complaints of sexual harassment. You should take advantage of those procedures. Your employer or college is required by law to investigate your complaint and take corrective action. In many cases, the employer or college will take action to stop the harassment.
Filing a formal complaint creates a record that will help protect your legal rights. Your formal complaint helps to prove that the harassment was real and the dates when it happened. Filing a formal complaint helps to protect you from retaliation.
If, for any reason, you are afraid to file a formal complaint with your employer or college, then you should consult with an attorney immediately to protect your rights.
Consulting with an attorney is advisable in any event, because an attorney can help you develop an evidentiary record and present the strongest possible case. Having an attorney on your side will also give you strength and confidence to stand up to the harasser. To schedule a free and confidential consultation with an experienced sexual harassment attorney at The Howley Law Firm, call us at (212) 601-2728.
When is my employer legally responsible for sexual harassment?
An employer is legally responsible if the harasser was your supervisor—the person with authority to hire you, fire you, cut your pay, etc. The fact that senior management did not know about the harassment does not make the company any less responsible for your supervisor’s conduct.
If the harasser is a co-worker, contractor, client or customer, your employer is liable only if management knew or should have known about the harassment and did not take immediate and appropriate corrective action. This is another reason why it is important to file a formal complaint of harassment with your employer.
What types of compensation can I recover for sexual harassment?
As a victim of sexual harassment, you are entitled to compensation for lost wages, denials of promotions, raises or educational opportunities, emotional distress, and reasonable attorneys’ fees and costs. You may be entitled to an injunction or court order restoring you to a prior position, giving you a promotion or raise going forward, and protecting you from future harassment or retaliation. You may also be entitled to punitive damages.
How can a sexual harassment attorney help me?
Proving a sexual harassment case can be complicated. You must comply with specific laws, procedural rules, and time deadlines. You also must develop and present your proof of harassment in compliance with the rules of evidence. An experienced sexual harassment attorney can ensure that you meet all of these requirements and present the strongest possible case.
Employers, administrative agencies, and judges often take a case more seriously if you are represented by an experienced attorney. This may result in a higher settlement offer or jury verdict. Having an experienced attorney on your side will also reduce the stress of fighting for your rights.
If you have a good case, The Howley Law Firm will represent you on a contingency fee basis. In other words, you will not pay us any legal fees unless you win.
The process begins with a free and confidential consultation. Call us today at (212) 601-2728 to make an appointment with one of our experienced attorneys.