According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), a total of 72,675 workplace discrimination charges were filed in 2019. They allege discriminatory behavior based on race, disability, sex, religion, and other protected categories. Of the charges, 7,514 cited sexual harassment; that’s 10 percent of all discrimination charges filed last year.
To think that workplace sexual harassment still leads to thousands of reports every year is mind-blowing in itself, but what about all the workers who haven’t come forward? A 2018 survey conducted by CareerBuilder revealed that 72 percent of workplace sexual harassment victims stay silent. And these figures are even higher among low-wage and minority workers. If you have received inappropriate sexual comments, it is important to consult with a New York City sexual comments lawyer about your legal options.
What are Sexual Comments in the New York Workplace?
Although the figures above are nationwide, New York is certainly no exception. In a 2018 report released by Cornell University’s IRL school, “Findings on Workplace Sexual Harassment from the 2018 Empire State Poll,” the following statistics were revealed:
- More than 10 percent of adult New Yorkers reported having experienced workplace sexual harassment.
- Although workplace sexual harassment disproportionately impacts women, 9.5 percent of New York men report being victims.
- In NY, people of color are more likely to suffer workplace sexual harassment—13.9 percent compared to 8.5 percent of white workers.
The statistics above are shocking, particularly considering that in 2019, NY Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed legislation, strengthening protections against all types of discrimination and harassment, including employment-related sexual harassment. In regards to workplace sexual harassment, the new law extended the statute of limitations for these claims from one to three years.
And a year earlier, NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio signed the Stop Sexual Harassment in NYC Act, which was intended to expand existing laws and prevent workplace sexual harassment. Despite these statewide and NYC-specific efforts, sexual harassment remains a pervasive problem in New York workplaces. The laws around sexual harassment can be confusing, but an experienced New York City sexual comments lawyer understands the gritty details. If you are experiencing sexual harassment in your workplace it’s important to speak with an experienced attorney as soon as possible.
Are Sexual Comments at Work a Form of Sexual Harassment?
According to a recent study, about 81 percent of women surveyed have been victims of verbal sexual harassment in the workplace. When unwelcome sexual comments or sexual jokes contribute to a hostile work environment, those comments are likely to be prohibited by Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, and the New York State Human Rights Law. Examples of illegal sexual comments in the workplace may include lewd jokes, using derogatory terms to describe a sexual act, catcalls, and remarks about another person’s anatomy.
At a federal level, in order for comments to constitute sexual harassment the conduct must be “severe or pervasive enough to create a work environment that a reasonable person would consider intimidating, hostile, or abusive.” In other words, an isolated comment is unlikely to result in legal ramifications. If, however, the unwanted behavior continues, creating an environment that would be offensive or otherwise hostile to reasonable people, a sexual harassment claim may be warranted.
At the state and city level in NY, victims of sexual comments and lewd remarks are able to file for a hostile work environment if they are being treated less favorably based on their gender or sexual identity. This is important to distinguish, as the conduct need not be severe and pervasive, but rather, if a worker is being treated less favorably based on their gender or sexual identity, they may be able to establish a sexual harassment claim. As all cases are unique, if you have questions about your personal situation, it is always best to speak directly with an experienced New York City sexual comments lawyer.
What to Do if You Are Receiving Inappropriate Sexual Remarks at Work in NYC
If you have been the victim of workplace sexual harassment comments in New York City, you do not need to suffer in silence. In fact, the sooner you begin documenting the comments / behaviors and consult with an NYC sexual comments attorney, the better.
At Joseph & Norinsberg LLC, our experienced sexual harassment team will thoroughly investigate your situation to determine if you have a valid case. If we decide to move forward, your attorney will help you gather evidence to substantiate your claim, protect you from employer retaliation, and help you obtain the compensation you deserve. And remember, it is never too early to speak with an NYC sexual comments lawyer.
Depending on the severity of the situation, we may advise you to first speak with your supervisor or human resources department and follow your company’s policy for reporting sexual harassment. If your employer is unwilling or unable to resolve the situation, it may be necessary to file a formal complaint, known as an administrative charge, with the EEOC. If the EEOC gives the green light to file a lawsuit, your NYC sexual comments attorney will fight tirelessly to get you the justice and compensation you need to heal and get on with your life.
Frequently Asked Questions
What kinds of comments could constitute sexual harassment?
Any unwelcome and repetitive comments of a sexual nature can be deemed sexual harassment. Common examples include:
- Lewd jokes
- Sexual teasing
- Stories of an explicitly-sexual nature
- Using sexually-derogatory terms toward another person
- Sexual innuendos or advances, unwelcome sexual jokes, or derogatory language in written form (email, memos, etc.)
- Catcalls, whistling, or other “sexual noises”
- Use of derogatory language to describe body parts or sex
- Spreading rumors about someone else’s sexuality or sex life
- Sexual remarks about a person’s body, appearance, or manner of dress
Does it matter if the inappropriate sexual comments are coming from my boss or coworker?
Although the person making sexual comments can be a supervisor, non-employee, or co-worker, the harasser’s role at the company definitely impacts the outcome of a sexual harassment case. If your harasser is your supervisor, the company is legally liable for any tangible employment action—such as firing or demoting—taken against you. If, on the other hand, your harasser was a co-worker and no tangible employment action was taken against you, you have to prove that the comments actually created a hostile work environment or was causing you to be treated unfavorably due to your gender or sexual identity.
Is it Sexual Harassment if a Coworker or Manager Comments on My Clothing?
When it comes to words, the nature of the comment matters. For example, if a supervisor asks a female employee to dress more professionally, this isn’t likely to be deemed sexual harassment. Nor is a comment such as, “I like your dress.” On the flip side, the dress comment could be seen as sexual harassment if it is followed up with, “It makes your legs look a mile long.” If you feel uncomfortable and unsure, it is always best to speak directly with an experienced sexual harassment lawyer about the inappropriate sexual comments.
Contact an NYC Sexual Comments Attorney Today
At Joseph & Norinsberg LLC, our highly-skilled team of sexual harassment attorneys has successfully represented countless employees in cases involving everything from sexual comments and advances to unwanted touch and sexual assault. We will conduct a thorough investigation into your unique situation and ensure that you fully understand your rights and options before moving forward. Contact Joseph & Norinsberg LLC today through our website for a free and confidential consultation about your case.