When someone is subjected to sexual harassment in the workplace, that individual may begin to feel uncomfortable, ashamed, intimidated or uncertain about his or her rights. If this behavior goes on long enough, it can create an extremely hostile work environment.
While isolated incidents involving unwelcome sexual advances may not constitute sexual harassment, the moment such conduct becomes pervasive or severe is the point at which federal laws have been violated.
According to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission,
“Harassment is illegal when it is so frequent or severe that it creates a hostile or offensive work environment or when it results in an adverse employment decision (such as the victim being fired or demoted).”
Supervisors, co-workers, even customers and clients can all be harassers.
If you have suffered unlawful sexual harassment in a Long Island workplace, you have legal protections under state and federal laws. In sexual harassment cases such as this, you, as the victim, may be entitled to pursue compensation from your employer.
Here are just a few examples of the many forms sexual harassment takes:
Lewd or sexually oriented comments about a person’s clothes, demeanor, sexual behavior, sexual tendencies, orientation, romantic nature or physical stature are all examples of inappropriate behavior in the workplace. Sexual innuendos, anecdotes about one’s sexual experiences or past, and lascivious behavior may constitute sexual harassment.
Has one of your co-workers or supervisors asked you out for a date? One date request may be acceptable, but when a person repeatedly asks for a date after having already been denied, it may become harassment. Continual advancements can make it seem as if your job or the future of your career relies on you giving into sexual advancements.
While physical contact can be taken the wrong way, certain behavior may be considered inappropriate and unacceptable in the workplace. Neck and shoulder massages, patting someone on the back, play-punching a co-worker in the arm, stroking a subordinate’s hair, tickling, squeezing or brushing up against another person are ways in which an individual can make unwanted physical contact. Kissing and hugging in most instances are unacceptable workplace conduct.
Not all sexual harassment is done with words. In some instances, staring at another person’s chest, ogling their body or engaging in other nonverbal conduct of a sexual nature may be considered harassment. Making derogatory gestures or facial expressions is conduct unsuitable in workplace environments. If it makes you feel uncomfortable and unsafe, it should not have occurred.
Joke-telling is not uncommon among co-workers, but that doesn’t mean the content is always suitable for the workplace. When jokes become degrading, sexually sarcastic or demeaning to co-workers and employees – even if that was not the intended result – it is unwelcome and improper behavior in the workplace. Even asking a co-worker about his or her sexual history or orientation can make him or her feel as if the workplace environment has become sexually hostile.
Making threats based on refusal of sexual advances is against the law. If you are the recipient of unwanted sexual advances from an employer, supervisor, co-worker or other work colleague, you should never feel your career is being threatened or put in jeopardy based on how you respond to sexual advances in the workplace. Even name-calling or having your path blocked or impeded can be considered unwelcome, threatening behavior.
When an individual sends a note, email or note to one of his or her employees or co-workers, requesting sexual favors or making any type of inappropriate suggestions, it may be considered as harassment.
Sharing sexually explicit or graphic content with co-workers, such as is contained in magazines or on pornographic websites, may be sexual harassment. Displaying posters that objectify either women or men, or show sexual images, may also be considered harassment. Pictures, screensavers, emails or photos of a sexual nature have no place in the workplace.
In certain instances, an office crush or sexual infatuation with a co-worker may evolve into a much more serious problem. If you have a co-worker who you believe has been following you outside the workplace, frequenting the same locations you are known to frequent, showing up unannounced or seeking you out wherever you go, it is likely that the in-office sexual harassment has advanced into stalking.
One of the most serious levels of sexual harassment involves attempted or actual sexual assault. If you have been sexually assaulted by a co-worker or employer, the prospect of spending even a few moments in the office afterwards can be very uncomfortable and terrifying. While you may have the urge to quit so you can go find a safer place to work, it is important you seek justice against the individual who assaulted you. Even if you don’t do it for yourself, doing so could prevent others from being sexually assaulted in the future.
If you have become the victim of sexual harassment in the workplace, you may be entitled to file a lawsuit to pursue compensation from your employer. While the majority of sexual harassment cases involve a harasser who is either a co-worker or in a position of power over the victim, compensation may still be sought in cases in which the harasser is a non-employee.
Contact a skilled Long Island employment lawyer so you can get help protecting your rights, as well as find out more about the legal options available to you.