New York City has taken a very active stance on sexual harassment. At the federal level, only employers with a minimum of 15 employees need to guarantee their employees are protected from sexual harassment formally. In New York City, all employers, regardless of the size of their company, are liable for maintaining a professional environment where no one can sexually harass any other individual. The law highlights the importance of preventing harassment through employee training and awareness programs.
What could constitute as sexual harassment?
While most people understand sexual harassment as explicit, subtle harassment is more common because it is harder to detect and therefore harder to report. Here we have unacceptable office behaviors that an employee should be aware of so they can file a report with no hesitation:
- Lewd sounds, noises, remarks or movements such as whistling or sexually charged finger gestures
- Inappropriate touching or physical advances like pinching, tickling, butt slapping, poking, massaging, grabbing or hugging
- Even physical advances that are accidental, such as brushing against the chest, crotch or butt areas
- A fellow employee posting or sharing sexually charged memes, objects, pictures, magazines and the like
- Quid pro quo harassment or indecent exchange proposals
If at any time someone in the office makes you feel uncomfortable, you have the right to report it to your local government.
Your employer is responsible for the work environment
New York City employers cannot offer nondisclosure agreements (NDAs), nor can they provide private settlements. Confidential agreements allow the company to save face in the light of a scandal. As an employee, you can sue the people responsible for your hostile workplace in public court, that includes the person who sexually harassed you and your employer who turned a blind eye.