Lawyers Discuss Sexual Harassment Myths

Attorneys Tackle Myths About Sexual Harassment In The Workplace

Attorneys representing employees in New York, like those at Leeds Brown Law, P.C. handling sexual harassment cases, have heard thousands of stories about discrimination in the workplace. We have a thorough understanding of what sexual harassment is and what it is not. We also understand that there are a lot of employees out there who are unsure about what behaviors constitute harassment, when it is illegal and what parties may be held responsible when it happens. Employees and employers alike have misconceptions that can seriously affect conduct in the workplace and the enforcement of your legal rights.

At Leeds Brown, we take pride in helping employees understand and pursue their legal rights to work in places free from discrimination and harassment. Federal law, such as Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII), prohibits sex discrimination in all aspects of the employment process, from applying and hiring to firing. State law too, like the New York State Human Rights Law (NYSHRL), prohibit employment discrimination because of sex. Even New York City has its own New York City Human Rights Law (NYCHRL) prohibiting similar conduct. These laws also make it illegal for an employer to retaliate against any employee who files a complaint about, tries to stop, or participates in an investigation of sexual harassment.

Our attorneys can help if you are the victim of sexual harassment. We have decades of experience securing favorable outcomes and recovering millions of dollars for employees in sex discrimination matters. We take pride in our reputation for providing professional and personal service to employees who are fighting for their workplace rights. Leeds Brown are strong advocates, representing your best interests during the entire process, whether you need someone to help with filing a claim, negotiating a settlement, or litigating in court.

Although attorneys are available 24/7 to help if you are sexually harassed at work, it never hurts to have information. Here, we attempt to address some myths associated with workplace sexual harassment and provide a little insight into the confusion that may surround this form of discrimination.

Debunking Myths About Sexual Harassment

Myth #1

“Sexual harassment is not the same as sex discrimination.”

Title VII prohibits sex discrimination. Sexual harassment is one type of sex discrimination. A claim of sexual harassment is a claim of sex discrimination. However, sex discrimination can occur in other ways as well.

Myth #2

“I am a man and, therefore, can’t be the victim of sexual harassment.”

Let’s make one thing clear: Laws that prohibit sexual harassment apply to both men AND women equally. Men can, and are, victims of sexual harassment in the workplace.

Myth #3

“Sexual harassment can only take place between a man and a woman.”

Sexual harassment can occur between members of the same gender or different genders. Same-sex harassment is quite common.

Myth #4

“Sexual harassment only occurs when someone asks for sex.”

Sexual harassment can occur in different ways and does not have to involve a direct request for sex, although that is one way. There are essentially two types of sexual harassment. The first is called quid pro quo. Quid pro quo harassment exists when a supervisor conditions an aspect of a subordinate’s employment on the performance of an act. For example, I will fire you if you don’t come home with me or I will give you a raise if you take a shower with me.

The second kind exists when one or more people act in a manner that creates a hostile work environment. This type of sexual harassment can consist of lewd jokes, comments about your appearance, sexual innuendo, propositions, inappropriate pictures, and unwanted touching. The conduct must be severe or pervasive enough to make a reasonable person feel uncomfortable or unsafe.

There does not have to be a request for sexual intercourse.

Myth #5

“They were just joking, so it’s not sexual harassment.”

Even someone who is “kidding” can commit sexual harassment. Usually, the effect on the victim is more important than the intent of the perpetrator. Calling you “sweetie,” “honey” or “cutie” every day because your co-worker thinks they are terms of endearment, may be sexual harassment. Telling you you’re “hot” may seem like a compliment to the person saying it, but it may make you feel uncomfortable, especially when it continues after you complained. If a reasonable person would feel that way, it may be sexual harassment.

Myth #6

“It only happened once so it can’t be sexual harassment.”

When conduct is severe, one act may be enough to form the basis of a sexual harassment claim. Attorneys at Leeds Brown can help you determine if the conduct you experienced was sexual harassment.

Myth #7

“The person harassing me is not an employee, so there’s nothing I can do.”

Employers must keep the workplace free from sexual harassment. This duty applies to making sure employees don’t harass other employees. It also applies to making sure that vendors, customers, clients and other third parties don’t harass employees. For instance, if your company hires someone to come in and do maintenance in your office, and that person sexually harasses you, your employer may be liable.

Myth #8

“I can’t file a claim unless I am the target of the harassment.”

You don’t have to be the direct target of sexual harassment to feel its effects. If someone else is being sexually harassed in your workplace and it is creating an environment that affects your work, you may have a claim for sexual harassment.

Myth #9

“I don’t have a claim because I still have my job.”

Some individuals think that if they don’t get fired they don’t have the standing to file a complaint about sexual harassment. This is not true. For example, say your boss threatens to fire you if you don’t sleep with her, and you say no. She doesn’t fire you. She has still sexually harassed you, and you may still have a claim.

If your employer does fire you or otherwise “punish” you for refusing to participate in or trying to put a stop to sexual harassment, it is called retaliation. Retaliation is unlawful under Title VII and state and local laws. If you suffer any adverse employment consequences because you went to HR, filed a complaint with the EEOC, or contacted an attorney, you may have a claim for retaliation in addition to your claim for sexual harassment. Adverse employment actions may include termination, demotion, pay cut, transfer and other negatives associated with a work situation.

Myth #10

“I should just ignore sexual harassment.”

Contact attorneys at Leeds Brown instead. Chances are, sexual harassment will not go away on its own. Your employer must maintain a workplace free from sexual harassment. Get help protecting your legal rights by seeking the help of experienced, dedicated employment attorneys in New York.

We know the ins-and-outs of sexual harassment laws at the federal, state, and local levels and can help you determine the best course of action to secure the outcome you desire. You may be able to recover monetary compensation for physical and emotional injuries. You may also be entitled to lost wages and other remedies. If your employer retaliated against you, it might be possible to get back your job.

Contact Us if You Have Been Sexually Harassed at Work

Sexual harassment attorneys at Leeds Brown can be reached 24/7 at 1-800-585-4658. You don’t have to deal with sexual harassment on your own. Call us today for a free case evaluation. Time may be of the essence so don’t delay. Get help protecting your employment rights and stopping sexual harassment.