When faced with sexual harassment in the workplace, you should take the following steps:
Object to the Harassment: Tell the harasser to stop. Tell them clearly and firmly that their conduct is not welcome and must end immediately. Do not leave any doubt in their mind that you want them to stop. Harassment is a form of bullying. Workplace bullies act brave when they think you are weak, but they often go away if you stand up to them.
Report the Incident: Tell your supervisor and the human resources department what happened. You should use your company’s formal reporting process if they have one. If not, then report the incident in writing or by email. Be specific about what was said, who said it, when, and where. Keep a copy of your report.
Get Some Moral Support: Sexual harassment can cause severe stress no matter how strong you are. It is especially stressful if the harasser is a supervisor or a friend of a supervisor. Do not go through this alone. Talk to a close friend or family member about what happened and how it is affecting you. Having a trusted confidant will reduce stress and help you make better decisions.
Keep a Record: Keep a log of any ongoing sexual harassment. Write down dates, times, what was said or done, and who was involved. Keep this log separate from any personal journal or diary. In New York, you may use your smart phone to secretly record what the harasser says to you. That can be powerful evidence. (But you must be present when the recording is done. You cannot leave your smart phone in a room to record conversations when you are not present.)
Gather Your Work Product: Make sure you keep copies of your accomplishments at work. Keep copies of your work product, performance reviews, commendations, awards and anything else that shows you are a good, valued employee.
Do Not Quit: Quitting your job will make it very difficult, and sometimes impossible, to bring a claim against the harasser and the company. Before you quit, talk to an experienced employment lawyer. Your lawyer may be able to intervene and get the employer to stop the harassment.
Consult an Experienced Employment Lawyer: Getting advice from a lawyer early in the process is the best way to stop the harassment and, if necessary, build a strong case for damages. A good, legitimate employment lawyer will give you a free consultation. If you need to bring a lawsuit and have a strong case, your lawyer will take the case on a contingency fee basis. This means that you will not pay any legal fees unless you win.
Do Not Delay: You must act promptly for two reasons. First, acting immediately helps build your credibility. Second, there are strict time limits for filing a claim under New York City, New York State, and federal laws. Failing to act promptly may result in the loss of your claims.
To schedule a free and confidential consultation with an experienced sexual harassment lawyer, call John Howley, Esq. directly at (212) 601-2728.
Prepare Yourself for a Successful Lawsuit
Fighting back against sexual harassment requires more than evidence and a good lawyer. You need to be mentally and emotionally prepared to stand up for your rights. Here are some tips to get started.
Confide in a Close Friend. Tell someone close to you what is happening at work. Simply telling a sympathetic listener will relieve some stress. You will be empowered by the knowledge that you are not alone, no matter what is happening at work.
A trusted friend can help you make wise decisions. You should not make important decisions such as starting a lawsuit when your judgment may be clouded by anger, stress or fear. Having the support of a close friend or family member can help you reach a state of mental and emotional confidence.
Your confidant may also become an important witness if you decide to pursue legal action. He or she may be able to corroborate your timeline of events, the emotional impact the harassment had on you at the time, and the continuing effects today.
Get Professional Counseling. Doctors are taught that they should never self-diagnose. The same advice applies to the rest of us who lack their medical education and training.
Healthcare professionals have the training and experience necessary to identify subtle effects on your psyche. While most people in this field are by nature compassionate, as professionals they are also committed to giving you objective advice. Unlike a family member or close friend who might “pull punches” because they do not want to hurt your feelings, a healthcare professional can tell it to you straight. You need that balance of professional advice and unconditional support.
These benefits alone are good enough reason to seek professional help, whether or not you ever start a lawsuit. Seeking professional counseling or therapy before you see a lawyer will also help your succeed in court. The fact that you sought professional help, on your own, may help convince a judge or jury that your emotional harm is real.
Be Confident, Strong, and Proud. You did nothing wrong. This situation is not your fault. You have no reason to be fearful, anxious, or ashamed. The only people who should have those feelings are the people who have harassed you at work, and the people who did nothing to stop it.
The harassers are cowards. They appear to be extremely confident when harassing others and getting away with it. But truly confident people do not harass or bully anyone. The need to harass and bully others comes from a deep sense of insecurity in the bully.
Your harassers are the weak ones. When you fight back from a position of emotional balance and confidence, justice will prevail.
When you are ready for the next step, call John Howley, Esq. at (212) 601-2728 to schedule a free and confidential consultation.
Government Charges that Gay and Lesbian Employees Were Subjected to Hostile Work Environments Because of Their Sexual Orientation
The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has filed two lawsuits alleging that gay and lesbian employees were subjected to sexual harassment and a hostile work environment. These are the first sexual orientation discrimination lawsuits brought by the government under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act.
In one lawsuit against Scott Medical Health Center, the EEOC alleges that a gay male employee was subjected to a hostile work environment because of his sexual orientation. The complaint alleges that the employee’s manager referred to him using anti-gay epithets and made other highly offensive comments about his sexuality and sex life. The company allegedly failed to take any action after the employee complained. Ultimately, the employee quit to avoid further harassment.
In the other lawsuit against IFCO Systems, the EEOC alleges that a lesbian employee was subjected to a hostile work environment because of her sexual orientation. Her supervisor allegedly made comments about her appearance and sexual orientation, such as "I want to turn you back into a woman" and "You would look good in a dress." The employee was fired shortly after she called an employee hotline to complain.
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act prohibits harassment in the workplace based on a person’s sex. Until now, the government has only pursued lawsuits for harassment based on an employee’s gender. It has not pursued discrimination or sexual harassment lawsuits based on an employee’s sexual orientation.
Last year, however, the EEOC determined that sexual orientation discrimination is, by its very nature, discrimination based on sex. That was an administrative proceeding involving a government employee. The new lawsuits have been filed in courts against private employers.
The EEOC explained three rationales for finding that sexual orientation discrimination constitutes sex discrimination under Title VII. First, sexual orientation discrimination is necessarily based on an employee’s sex, because sexual orientation as a concept cannot be understood without reference to sex. Second, sexual orientation discrimination is based on the employee’s perceived non-compliance with sex stereotypes and gender norms, and employment decisions based on such stereotypes and norms have long been prohibited under Title VII. Third, sexual orientation discrimination punishes workers because of their close personal association with members of a particular sex, such as marital and other personal relationships.
The new lawsuits are significant because the EEOC is challenging the conduct of private employers in court. The EEOC hopes that by bringing these lawsuits, courts will recognize that sexual orientation discrimination is a form of sex discrimination.
If you have faced harassment in the workplace because of your sex, sexual orientation or gender identity, you should consult with an experienced employment lawyer to understand and protect your rights. To schedule a free and confidential consultation, call John Howley, Esq. at (212) 601-2728.
Answers to Frequently Asked Questions About Sexual Harassment in the Workplace
What is the definition of sexual harassment?
Sexual harassment includes unwelcome sexual comments, advances, requests for sexual favors, and verbal or physical harassment of a sexual nature, including text messages, emails and the displaying of sexual images in the workplace. Sexual harassment generally falls into one of two categories:
What types of sexual harassment are illegal?
Illegal sexual harassment includes a wide range of conduct from sexual comments, to lewd jokes, to unwanted physical contact. Some examples of sexual harassment include:
How should I respond to sexual harassment?
First, do not blame yourself. Sexual harassment is never the victim's fault. Understand that you have rights and options. Tell the harasser to stop, and report the conduct to your employer in writing. Your employer must investigate and take remedial action. Your employer is not allowed to fire, transfer, or otherwise retaliate against you for reporting sexual harassment.
Write down notes and make a record of what happened. This can be as simple as going home, writing down what happened complete with names, places, dates and times, and telling a close family member or friend. Continue to make notes if the conduct continues. Keep those notes at home, not in your office or on your work computer.
You should also meet with an experienced sexual harassment lawyer to learn how to protect your rights. Do this right away because there are strict deadlines if you want to file a claim. You can schedule a free and confidential consultation by calling John Howley, Esq. at (212) 601-2728.
How do I prove sexual harassment?
There are a number of ways to prove sexual harassment. The evidence begins with what you saw and heard, and the testimony of any other witnesses. Written records are also helpful, such as any notes you made at the time of the harassment, any written complaints to your employer, and emails or text messages from the harasser.
You may also use a smartphone to make audio or video recordings of the harassing conduct. In New York and many other states, you are permitted to record your conversations with other people without telling them that they are being recorded. But you are not permitted to leave a recording device in a room or attached to a phone and leave. You must be a participant in the conversation in order to record it. Consult with an experienced sexual harassment lawyer to get advice on how to gather evidence to support your case.
Where can I obtain more information about sexual harassment in the workplace?
Call John Howley, Esq. at (212) 601-2728 to schedule a free and confidential consultation.
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