Filing a Sexual Harassment Workplace Lawsuit

Filing a Sexual Harassment Workplace Lawsuit in NY and NJ

A recent poll revealed that 60% of women in the United States said that they have been victims of sexual harassment. The survey by Quinnipiac University found that of the women who said that they have been sexual harassment victims, 69% said that they were harassed at work, 43% in social settings, 45% on the street, and 15% at home.

In another survey by Cosmopolitan, it was revealed that 1 in 3 women between 18 and 34 years of age has been sexually harassed at work.

Out of those who experienced workplace sexual harassment, 29% said that they reported the issue while 71% did not. 81% of women experience verbal harassment, 44% said that they experienced unwanted sexual advances and 25% said that they have received lewd emails or texts.

If you have been harassed at work, contact our New York City sexual harassment lawyers for assistance.

Sexual Harassment Laws in NY and NJ

Sexual harassment is strictly prohibited in New York workplaces by federal, state, and city law. Such conduct, whether verbal or physical, may lead to a sex-based hostile work environment. Some of the common examples of sexual harassment in the workplace include:

  • Verbal or written sexually-charged comments such as sexually suggestive comments
  • Sharing and displaying sexually inappropriate images or videos
  • Unwanted sexually suggestive texts, messages, or emails
  • Unwanted physical touching
  • Lewd jokes, sexual anecdotes, inappropriate gestures or questions
  • Staring in a sexually suggestive manner
  • Inappropriate comments about sexual orientation
  • Physical situations that are intimidating, like trapping or blocking
  • Inappropriate touching, pinching, rubbing or brushing against another

It’s important to note that it does not matter who makes such a sexual offense in the workplace. Whether it’s a manager, co-worker, or even a vendor or customer of the employer, employees are protected under the New York State Human Rights Law and New York City Human Rights Law from such conduct.

The New York State Human Rights Law protects employees from discrimination at work based on their race, gender, age, creed, color, sex, marital status, national origin, military status, disability, status as a domestic violence victim, arrest and conviction records, sexual orientation, and predisposing genetic characteristics.

Sexual harassment is seen as a form of sex-based discrimination, which is illegal and may be compensable by law. If you live in New York City and are sexually harassed at work, you are protected by the broader NYC Human Rights Law.

If you work in New Jersey, the state’s Law Against Discrimination (LAD) provides you with coverage. This discrimination law covers all types of discriminatory acts in the workplace. While the NJLAD does not expressly define sexual harassment in the statute, it has been consistently interpreted with federal laws. Coercive and unwelcome advances, physical or verbal conduct of a sexual nature and requests for sexual favors is prohibited under federal law.

Take Appropriate Steps to Protect Your Rights by Complaining of the Harassment

The first thing you should do if you have been sexually harassed at work is report the incident to your employer. Your employment handbook should have information on procedures for reporting sexual harassment. If formal procedures are not in place at your workplace, you can report any incident of sexual harassment to your HR department.

Provide the HR department information on the incident in writing and date the document. This is vital since in some cases, employers defend themselves by stating that they had no knowledge of the harassment and therefore, did not have the opportunity to stop the harassment. If you provide a written report that is clearly dated, formal notice is put on the employer and they will not be able to use this defense for any sexual harassment that takes place after the date of your notice.

In some situations, if the harasser is your supervisor or in HR, then escalate the complaint to a higher-level manager or even the owner or CEO of the company. As long as complaint is made, the employer is on notice of the sexual harassment and can’t deny it.

If you are not satisfied with the results of the investigation conducted by your employer or cannot or do not want to file a complaint through your employer, you can go to a local, state, or federal agency to enter a complaint. Keep in mind that you can also do this at the same time you report the incident to your employer.

You can go through the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EOCC) at the federal level. You can also go to the New York State Division of Human Rights and New Jersey Department of Law and Public Safety, Division on Civil Rights. If you file with a state or local agency, your claim will be automatically co-filed with the EEOC.

The Federal agency will conduct an investigation and seek a response from your employer or their attorney. Since its likely that your employer will have an attorney defend itself, it’s important for you to call an attorney at the Polat Law Group to step in and represent you as well. The processes involved in filing a complaint with a federal or state agency is slow, having an attorney can be helpful as we can typically intervene with an employer more quickly than a government agency.

If one of the agencies comes to the decision that your sexual harassment complaint is warranted, you will be issued a “right to sue” letter by the agency, allowing you to bring the case to court. If you are going to file a workplace sexual harassment lawsuit in federal court, you will need this letter. However, you can file a lawsuit in state court without even going through a federal or state agency.

Statute of Limitations

It is crucial to make sure that you are aware of the statute of limitations for filing a workplace sexual harassment lawsuit in your state. Under Title VII, you must file a claim with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission within 180 days of the incident.

However, if there are similar laws in your state that protect workers from sexual harassment, which both New York and New Jersey have, you can file the complaint with agencies on both state and federal levels which will extend the statute of limitations to 300 days.

If you or a loved one has been sexually harassed at work, you should immediately report the incident to your employer and contact the dedicated and judicious New York City sexual harassment attorneys at Polat Law Group. With a lawyer by your side, you can fight for your employee rights and recover damages for the harassment you had to go through.