As the nation continues to experience a growing number of instances of sexual misconduct being reported, employees in New York State have good reason to wonder how or what can be done to protect people in the workplace. For some time, the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has outlined parameters that identify what may constitute sexual harassment in the workplace.
These laws include the reuirement that sexual harassment may be experienced by either men or women and may even include an alleged harasser of the same gender as the victim. Employees were to be protected against things like unwanted sexual advances, requests for sexual favors or even off-color jokes or comments. Employees were protected from being harassed not only by their superiors or colleagues but also by any vendors, clients or customers In New York City alone, a co-worker’s sexual harassment can subject an employer to liability.
If you can make use of the New York Coty Human RightsLaw, you should do it. Federal and state law require that there be a “pervasive or severe” environment so intolerable that no reasonable employee could tolerate such abuse. One incident 0- such as sexual assault- can account for this, and so can scores of comments and unwanted attraction.
It is important that if you want to bring your state or City case in court, you must NOT file with the State or City Division of Human Rights. If you do so, you lose your right to file in court. If you don’t care about going to court, you might get some relief in the divisions – however, in my opinion, the state division is more employer-friendly and bureaucratic. The EEOC will often attempt to resolve the claim with mediation, but other times will dismiss the case without making a finding, allowing you to file in court within 90 days. You can file on your own, but you are always better off with an attorney.
Remember: Harassment of a general nature – rudeness, etcetera- is not a matter for a court. But if it is sexual harassment and you truly believe it to be so, report it. That way, if your employer takes action against you, it cannot say that it rectified the problem and you can say you were the victim of retaliation. The EEOC explains retaliation here: https://www.eeoc.gov/laws/types/retaliation.cfm
Now, the State of New York is launching a new law that will expand workplace harassment protections in another effort to prevent future harassment experiences. The new laws will require that any contractor providing goods or services to the state prove that they provide robust sexual harassment training to all employees and that they have a clear harassment policy in place.
Also part of the new law is that a vendor, contractor or subcontractor is protected from sexual harassment by a person at the company that they are doing business with. The state has developed standards for all sexual harassment policies and programs and employers around the state will be required to ensure that their policies and training programs meet these standards.