New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman has released guidelines regarding sexual harassment in the workplace in order to inform New Yorkers of their rights, and to help them if they've become a victim.
According to Schneiderman, sexual harassment is discrimination that involves unwelcome conduct that’s used as a basis for hiring or for other employment decisions, such as promotions and raises, and it’s also behavior that creates an intimidating, hostile or offensive work environment. The person doing the harassing can be a supervisor or co-worker, or even someone who isn’t an employee, such as a customer or client.
Harassment becomes illegal when it’s so frequent or severe that it creates a hostile or offensive work environment, or it results in an adverse employment decision, according to Schneiderman. He says that according to the Equal Employment opportunity Commission, one in four women experience sexual harassment in the workplace.
Shneiderman offers the following guidance to victims of sexual harassment, including resources available to victims of sexual assault beyond simply reporting the harassment to their employers:
- Sexual harassment is prohibited by Title VII of the 1964 federal Civil Rights Act, New York State Human Rights Law and, in some instances, local law (for example, the New York City Administrative Code). The NYS Human Rights Law also protects against harassment based on gender identity or transgender status.
- The law protects both men and women, and also covers incidents in which the harasser and the victim are of the same sex, regardless of sexual orientation.
- Harassment on the basis of actual or perceived sexual orientation is prohibited by the New York State Sexual Orientation Non-Discrimination Act ("SONDA"). For more information on SONDA, visit the Attorney General’s website.
- If harassment involves physical touching, coerced physical confinement, or coerced sex acts, the conduct may constitute a crime and should also be reported to the local police department.
- Retaliation for making a complaint about sexual harassment is prohibited by law. If this occurs, you may have a separate claim of retaliation, in addition to any claim of sexual harassment. Retaliation occurs when the terms and conditions of one’s work are unfavorably changed as a result of one’s reporting sexual harassment or cooperating with the investigation of a sexual harassment complaint or lawsuit.