Sexual harassment is a form of gender discrimination, which can consist of sexual advances, jokes, ultimatums, or other unwanted conduct of a sexual nature. There are several different legal and administrative forums in which victims of sexual harassment may utilize to enforce their rights, including the New York State Division of Human Rights (“NYSDHR”), Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”), New York City Commission on Human Rights (“NYCCHR”), State Court, and Federal Court. Choosing the ideal forum to enforce your rights will depend entirely on the specifics of your case. Leeds Brown Law, P.C. can help you select the most appropriate forum and pursue the course of action that best suits your needs. Below are some frequently asked questions regarding forum selection.
The EEOC is a federal agency that administers and enforces various federal laws which prohibit discrimination in the workplace, including sexual harassment. If a sexual harassment victim wishes to file a lawsuit in State or Federal Court, and also wishes to rely (wholly or partially) on federal law as basis for that lawsuit, they must first file a charge with the EEOC. In some instances, the EEOC will offer mediation. Only after the EEOC has been given an opportunity to investigate the allegations can a lawsuit be filed. Note that if a victim wishes to rely only upon state law as the basis for the lawsuit, filing a charge with the EEOC beforehand is not necessary. An individualized assessment must be undertaken to determine whether reliance upon state law only would be an advantageous strategy. Your case should be evaluated by an experienced New York Sexual Harassment Attorney.
The New York State Division of Human Rights (NYSDHR) is a state agency that enforces the New York State Human Rights law (“NYSHRL”), which prohibits sexual harassment, among other forms of discrimination. An overview of the NYSDHR can be found on their homepage. Generally, most complaints filed with the NYSDHR will be cross-filed with the EEOC, meaning that a lawsuit based on federal law may later be pursued, if desired. Whether a lawsuit based on state law may be pursued will depend on whether the NYSDHR has yet rendered a determination on the complaint, and, if so, the nature of that determination. Note that any lawsuit must comply with the statute of limitations to be viable.
The differences are abundant. But, the most basic differences are procedural in nature. In abbreviated terms, a complaint filed with the NYSDHR is reviewed by an investigator, who also reviews other submissions and evidence, frequently conducts interviews, and recommends a finding to the NYSDHR’s regional director, who makes the ultimate determination on whether the case should proceed. The case may then advance to a hearing before an administrative law judge, who makes an ultimate ruling. All of this generally occurs within a period of less than a year. In contrast, a litigation filed in court is much more involved, and generally takes longer. After a court complaint is filed, there may be extensive discovery, including depositions and the exchange of documents, motion practice, and possibly a full-fledged trial. Which option is optimal will depend on the facts of each case, as well as the needs, desires, and resources of the client. At Leeds Brown Law, we strive to meet each client’s needs and wishes. Our attorneys possess the extensive knowledge required to manage each case from conception to resolution with our clients’ best interests in mind.
The NYCCHR is an agency of the City Of New York that enforces the New York City Human Rights Law (“NYCHRL”). Thus, to file a complaint with the NYCCHR based on sexual harassment (or any other form of discrimination), the harassing conduct must have occurred or had an effect on the victim in New York City (Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens, Staten Island, or Manhattan). The procedural process utilized by the NYCCHR is somewhat similar to that utilized by the NYSHRL. However, cases filed at the NYCCHR generally take significantly longer to resolve than those filed at the NYSDHR. As the NYCCHR decides it cases by applying the NYCHRL, which may at times be more plaintiff-friendly than the NYSHRL, this forum may be worth consideration, depending on the particular facts of the case.
One of Leeds Brown Law, P.C.’s main areas of practice is protecting employees who have or are experiencing sexual harassment at work. If you or anyone you know has or is experiencing sexual harassment, seek legal counsel right away. Call (516) 873-9550 or email us today.