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.
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.
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