Sexual harassment is pervasive in the American workplace, from immigrant domestic employees to Silicon Valley entrepreneurs, from construction workers to newsroom personnel, it is a workplace hazard that many workers, often women and those in the LGBTQ community, encounter as part of their daily work lives. Like other workplace hazards, it is illegal and can be prevented. At NYCOSH, we can provide the training necessary to identify and work towards eradicating workplace sexual harassment.
Over 12,000 federal charges of sexual harassment are brought to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission every year, which does not include cases brought to state or local agencies or the estimated 65% of workers who do not report sexual harassment at all. It is your employer’s responsibility to provide a safe and hazard-free work environment including the absence of sexual harassment. Sexual harassment is about power. It stems from the extensive sexism that still persists in our society and makes its way to all areas of life including our workplaces. Women including LGBTQ-identified workers, are often sexualized and stereotyped. Historically harassment has been a tactic to defend male economic privilege. Sexual harassment in our workplaces disproportionately impacts women workers. It is a workplace hazard that has numerus psychological and even physical effects that hinder women’s ability to be healthy at work.
What is it?
Sexual harassment is unwanted, repeated sexual attention, requests for sexual favors and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature. Sexual harassment can be devastating to its victim, interfering with his/her ability to work because of a threatening, hostile and/or intimidating work environment. The majority of victims of sexual harassment are women, but men can also be victims.
What Do You Do?
MAKE IT CLEAR to the harasser that his/her behavior is unwelcome.
KEEP A RECORD. Write down what is happening to you and be detailed and accurate. Your account should answer the questions: Where and when did it happen? What was said and done?
TALK TO CO-WORKERS. If you think other workers are experiencing the same thing as you, get together and find out. Like with any other workplace hazard or abuse, it is always better not to go it alone. Co-workers may also have witnessed your harassment and can support your account.
FILE A COMPLAINT. Depending on where you work, you can file a complaint with either the management, a union representative, or through a company grievance procedure. It is important to let the employer know and have the opportunity to stop it.
Legal Remedies for Workplace Sexual Harassment
Sexual harassment is illegal under numerous federal statues including the Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Civil Rights Act of 1991. This legislation prohibits sexual harassment in the workplace with 15 or more employees and is enforced by U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). (link to EOCC’s sexual harassment site) Unlike other workplace hazards, OSHA does not enforce compliance with the law when it comes to sexual harassment. In addition to filing with the federal EOCC, sexual harassment is also prohibited under New York State Human Rights Law regardless of the number of employees at their workplace; it is also illegal under New York City Human Rights Law in workplaces with more than 4 employees. If the harassment becomes criminal and involves physical touching, coerced physical confinement or coerced sex acts, the conduct may constitute a crime. Victims of such crimes should file a report at your local police department.
Filing Complaints Under U.S. Law
Fact Sheets and Information
- SAFE HORIZONS: https://www.safehorizon.org/
Services: Provides support for victims of sexual abuse. For their Rape & Sexual Assault Hotline call (212) 227-3000
- New York State Hotline for Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence: 1-800-942-6906
- New York State Coalition against Sexual Assault: http://nyscasa.org/
Services: Lists contact information for Crisis Centers by New York County that provide treatment and care for sexual violence victims
- Trevor Project: http://www.thetrevorproject.org/ – A 24/7 crisis intervention and suicide prevention lifeline for LGBTQ young people, available at 1-866-488-7386.
- New York City Anti-Violence Project: https://avp.org/about-us/ 116 Nassau st. 3rd Fl. New York, NY 10038 firstname.lastname@example.org
Services: Professional counseling, Advocacy, Legal services
- National Domestic Violence Hotline: http://www.thehotline.org/ Hotline- 1-800-799-7233
Services: Provides information, support and resources for people experiencing any kind of intimate partners