Sexual Harassment FAQ

WHAT IS SEXUAL HARASSMENT?

Sexual harassment if a form of sex discrimination. There are two kinds of sexual harassment you should know about. Understanding the difference between the two may help you determine whether you have been or are being sexually harassed.

  • Quid Pro Quo Sexual Harassment. Quid pro quo means "this for that." This category of sexual harassment occurs when a superior promises rewards or threatens payback or punishment in the workplace in exchange for sexual behaviors performed by his or her subordinate.
  • Your case probably falls in to this category of sexual harassment if you have either:
    • Received an employment benefit, like a raise or promotion, for submitting to an unwanted sexual advance or advances; OR
    • Suffered an adverse employment action, like being demoted, denied or cut overtime, transferred or taking a pay cut, because you rejected a sexual advance or advances
  • The rest of this page (or the links below) deal(s) primarily with this kind of sexual harassment
  • Hostile work environment. This kind of harassment is considered sexual harassment when an employee is regularly subjected to comments of a sexual nature, unwelcome physical contact, or offensive sexual materials that create an intimidating or offensive business atmosphere, and/or unreasonably interfere with his or her job performance.
    • Your case probably falls into this category of sexual harassment if you are being subjected to any one of the following:
      • offensive or inappropriate comments, materials, or graffiti
      • sexually suggestive innuendos
      • jokes that are sexual in nature
      • sexual gestures
      • unwanted physical touching
    • Hostile work environment harassment may be sexual in nature. It may also occur in the form of race, religious, sexual orientation, disability or national origin discrimination.
    • For more information, see our Hostile Work Environment page.

It is not always easy to determine whether harassment falls in the "quid pro quo" or "hostile environment" category. Often, the two forms of harassment occur together.

It's important to have a good lawyer to help you sort out the facts most favorable to your case. The attorneys at Taubman Kimelman & Soroka, LLP, (212) 227-8140, will help you determine whether you have been sexually harassed and how to best build your case. Call for a free initial consultation (212) 227-8140.

WHAT KIND OF BEHAVIOR IS CONSIDERED SEXUAL HARASSMENT?

Sexual harassment is legally defined as "unwelcome verbal, visual, or physical conduct of a sexual nature that is severe or pervasive and affects working conditions or creates a hostile work environment." Here are some examples:

  • You were asked out on a date by a superior, and you…
    • ACCEPTED because you felt pressured after communicating that you thought it was inappropriate. As a result, you received a promotion, bonus, raise, or other employment benefit.
    • REFUSED. As a result, you were terminated or denied a promotion, raise, overtime, transferred or other employment action.
  • Your superior asked you for a sexual favor, and you...
    • COMPLIED because you felt pressured after communicating that you thought it was inappropriate. As a result, you received a promotion, bonus, raise, or other employment benefit.
    • REFUSED. As a result, you were terminated or denied a promotion, raise, overtime, transferred or other employment action.
  • You were at a holiday party and your superior asked you to go home with him or her, and you...
    • ACCEPTED because you felt pressured after communicating that you thought it was inappropriate. As a result, you received a promotion, bonus, raise, or other employment benefit.
    • REFUSED. As a result, you were terminated or denied a promotion, raise, overtime, transferred or other employment action.

As these examples show, it doesn't matter whether you submitted to or rejected the inappropriate sexual conduct. As long as the conduct was unwelcome, you may be the victim of unlawful sexual harassment.

If your case involves a scenario like one of those described above, the experienced attorneys at Taubman Kimelman & Soroka, LLP (212) 227- 8140 can help you. Call for a free consultation.

HOW CAN I MAKE SURE MY HARASSER KNOWS HIS OR HER CONDUCT IS UNWELCOME?

Conduct is not sexual harassment if it is welcome. The victim of sexual harassment must be able to show that his or her harasser's sexual advances were unwelcome and that this was communicated to the harasser.

You can communicate that sexual conduct is unwelcome either verbally, in writing, or by your own actions. Let your harasser know that his or her conduct makes you uncomfortable and that you want it to stop.

In addition, you should take advantage of any policies at your workplace that address sexual harassment. For example, if your employer has a policy that provides for filing a complaint against a sexually harassing superior with human resources, you should do so.

Letting your harasser and others know you are being sexually harassed in the workplace can be very difficult. Sometimes, the victim may feel ashamed or embarrassed in coming forward. It is important to remember, however, that sexual harassment is never okay. Employees have the right to work in a safe environment free of sexual misconduct.

CAN YOU GIVE ME SOME EXAMPLES OF SEXUAL HARASSMENT?

Here are some scenarios that might help you determine whether you have been sexually harassed. The following are based on successful cases of sexual harassment:

Scenario 1. Julie and Joe were in a consensual two-year relationship, which Julie recently ended. Joe is Julie's supervisor. Joe wants Julie back and constantly asks her on dates. Julie consistently refuses. Eventually, Joe fires Julie because she will not go out with him. This is sexual harassment.

Scenario 2. Joe, Julie's supervisor, comes over to her one day during work and massages her shoulders. While doing so, he tells her that he is responsible for deciding which employee in her position will receive a promotion. After that, he asks Julie if she would like to come into his office to "have a little fun." Julie refuses. A week later she receives a negative performance review and someone else receives the promotion.

WHO CAN BE A VICTIM OF SEXUAL HARASSMENT? WHO CAN BE HELD LIABLE?

There are misconceptions about who may be a victim of sexual harassment. Here are some facts you should know about the legal protections against sexual harassment.

The Victim

  • The victim may be a woman or a man.
  • The victim does not have to be of the opposite sex as his or her harasser.
  • The victim does not have to be the person harassed but could be anyone affected by the offensive conduct.
  • The victim does not have to suffer economic injury or termination for a determination of unlawful sexual harassment.
  • The harasser's conduct must be unwelcome.

The Harasser

  • The harasser may be a woman or a man.
  • The harasser can be any one of the following:
    • the victim's supervisor
    • co-worker
    • an agent of the employer
    • a supervisor in another area
  • The harasser's conduct must be unwelcome.

I THINK I HAVE A CASE, NOW WHAT?

The first thing you should do if you think you have a sexual harassment case is find a lawyer who is familiar with the process of filing a sexual harassment lawsuit in New York. Taubman Kimelman & Soroka are experienced employment lawyers. Call for a free consultation. (212)227-8140.