New York City Sexual Harassment: Where does it come and how can it be prevented?

New York sexual harassment and gender discrimination are prohibited by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act as well as by New York State’s own anti-harassment laws. This article will explore the concept of NY sexual harassment and introduce you to some generally accepted strategies for preventing it and ending it at the workplace.

The legal definition of “sexual harassment” is purposefully ambiguous. In general, any workplace conduct or sexual advance that is not welcome or that turns the work environment into a hostile or intimidating place to be can be construed as harassment. The line between appropriate and inappropriate conduct depends closely on context.

What might be acceptably flirtatious at one job might be inappropriate harassment at another. To illustrate the concept further, let’s take a look at some real world examples of what would likely be construed as NYC sexual harassment:

• A sales manager demeans female customers to his subordinates by insulting or mocking their figures and style of dress.
• A bus boy gropes a waitress – pitching her buttocks or grabbing at her chest.
• A boss posts sexually explicit cartoons on his subordinate’s desk as a joke.
• An employee forwards a lewd email around to co-workers that contains sexually explicit pictures or language.
• A secretary at an accounting firm becomes uncomfortable when her supervisors spend half an hour exchanging dirty jokes in the break room.

While most victims of sexual harassment are women; men can suffer harassment as well:

• For a fictitious example of female-to-male sexual harassment, see the 2009 Sandra Bullock movie, “The Proposal.”
• For a real world example of NYC male-to-male sexual harassment, see the allegations recently filed by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) against Sparks Restaurant in NYC.

Preventing harassment is an ongoing challenge for employers and employees alike.

One good place to start is a clear and well publicized policy. Employers and direct supervisors should know this policy inside and out and should convey it effectively to subordinates. Policy must be reasonable, regularly reviewed, and unambiguous.

Effective training and retraining can also prevent the spread of sexual harassment in workplaces. Unfortunately, office cultures can get corrupted by the “meme” of New York City sexual harassment. This social virus (if you will) then causes problems. For instance, some Wall Street companies are notorious for cultivating chauvinistic, if not outright, misogynistic atmospheres. Workers and supervisors who learn in this kind of environment may come to believe that it’s socially acceptable to sexually harass co-workers, tell dirty jokes, and so forth.

To fix sexual harassment problems endemic to certain companies, therefore, entire office cultures may need to be re-engineered. That’s no small task.

If you have been a victim of NYC sexual harassment, gender discrimination, or retaliation – or if you know a co-worker who needs help – the legal experts of Joseph & Kirschenbaum can help. Call us at (212) 688-5640, or connect with us through our website: www.jhllp.com. We can make a real difference and help you get compensation for lost wages or other problems you have suffered.