What Constitutes Sexual Harassment and How To Deal With It?

September 29, 2021

Enjoying a stress-free work environment is everyone’s fundamental right as an American citizen. However, despite stringent laws in place, the cases of sexual harassment at the workplace still continue to rise. There are many components to sexual harassment that are beyond a perpetrated criminal sexual contact. Therefore, it’s important to keep yourself informed of your rights and know that if you experience sexual harassment at the workplace, you can always reach out to a New York sexual harassment lawyer and fight for your right to fair and non-discriminatory work environment.

At Cohen & Fitch LLP, we urge every employee working in an organization in the US to familiarize themselves with the US labor laws that protect them in case of any unlawful activities committed against them. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has provided distinct categories of behavior that constitute sexual harassment at the workplace. So, if you experience any of these unwelcome behaviors, contact an experienced sexual harassment attorney to file a complaint.

  • The EEOC states that anyone can be an offender, irrespective of the difference or similarity of gender to that of the victim. Hence, if a man or woman passes sexist remarks about a woman, whether lesbian, bisexual, or transgender, is a clear violation of federal law. Moreover, the comment does not have to be sexual in nature to be categorized under sexual harassment. Thus, any derogatory remarks made against women, gays, or a person of any gender or sexual preference is unlawful.
  • Unwelcome sexual advances in the form of repeated requests for dates, or suggestive gift-giving, after a clearly stated refusal by the victim, are counted as sexual harassment. Similarly, unwanted comments, whether by a superior or anyone in the workplace, like requests for sex or coercing the victim into performing sexual favors by threatening or promising them benefits, all fall under the category of sexual harassment.
  • Inappropriate touching or blocking someone’s path, invading their personal space, suggestive hugging, or patting on the back also are forms of physical and sexual harassment that must be reported to the respective department immediately.
  • Moreover, sending sexually suggestive emails, text messages, or social media site posts is termed pictorial sexual harassment.
  • Lastly, criminal sexual contact, like physical assault or rape is punishable by law.

Usually, sexual harassment occurs in a combination of the above-listed forms. Therefore, if you or a coworker experiences or witnesses any of these, there are two types of sexual harassment claims that can be made, including:

  1. Quid Pro Quo. A Quid Pro Quo claim can be filed against someone in a position of power such as a boss, manager. A victim can pursue the route of a quid pro quo if a superior uses their authority to coerce an employee into performing sexual favors by either promising promotion or threatening to fire them.
  2. Hostile Work Environment. These claims can be filed when a victim suffers derogatory comments in the form of verbal or visual conduct in the office that negatively impacts their performance at work and makes them feel uncomfortable. Unlike Quid Pro Quo, the offenders of a hostile work environment can be anyone employed in the company, including coworkers, supervisors, but also even customers, vendors, etc.

Sexual harassment is a punishable offense under federal law, irrespective of the gender, race, or authority of the offender. Hence, if you are experiencing any physical, verbal, or pictorial sexual harassment at the workplace, but are unsure whether you have a firm ground to fight a case, consult with the team of experienced attorneys at Cohen & Fitch LLP, a reputed sexual harassment law firm in New York to get better clarity.