Sexual harassment in New York: the basics.

Sexual harassment can happen to anyone. 1,367 patients were treated in emergency rooms throughout the city of New York for sexual assault in 2008 alone, according to the New York City Alliance Against Sexual Assault. The most shocking part of this statistic: it takes into account only half of the hospitals in the city. The true number of sexual assault victims is likely much larger.

Special protections are available when sexual assault or other actions that could impact an employee's job occur within the workplace. Unfortunately, those who are victimized may hesitate to take action. It is important to know that sexual harassment is taken seriously in New York. In fact, there are three different levels of protection available for those who are harassed in New York: federal, state and city.

Federal protections

The United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, or EEOC, is the government agency responsible for enforcing federal discrimination laws such as sexual harassment. This agency states that is illegal to harass an applicant or employee based on that individual's sex. This includes any unwanted sexual advances or other forms of harassment that are sexual in nature or offensive.

Generally, employers with 15 or more employees are covered within these protections. The protections are available in an array of work situations, including hiring, promotions, terminations and wages. It is important to note that protections are intended for harassment that creates a "hostile and offensive work environment" or leads to an "adverse employment decision." The laws do not offer protection for offhand comments or isolated incidents.

Local protections, New York state law

New York's State Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman recently released a pamphlet outlining the protections offered at the state level. The pamphlet, Sexual Harassment In The Workplace, notes that in addition to federal protections, sexual harassment is also illegal at the state level under New York State's Human Rights Law.

Local protections, New York City law

New York City's Human Rights Law established a Commission on Human Rights that works with federal, state and city agencies to remove the threat of harassment. This commission can investigate complaints of harassment. If the investigation supports the allegations of harassment, the commission can move forward with a civil action.

The city's human rights laws are applicable to companies with four or more employees and covers actions similar to those offered by federal law.

Importance of legal counsel

Navigating the right path for a sexual harassment claim can be intimidating. In addition to these frustrations, many claims have time limitations. As a result, those who are victimized by sexual harassment should contact an experienced discrimination attorney.