Sexual Harassment Lawsuits

Sexual Harassment Lawsuits

Sexual Harassment Lawsuits – Today’s guest blog is by the  Lipsky Lowe Law Firm. The opinions expressed by the author in this and all guest blogs are not necessarily those of  Marc J. Victor, P.C.

Can you sue for emotional distress or pain and suffering if you have been sexually harassed?

Today, sexual harassment in the workplace has become a hot-button issue in light of the ongoing reports of pervasive sexual misconduct in the entertainment, media and business sectors. Did you know that you may be entitled to compensation for the emotional distress you are suffering and other losses if you have been harassed on the job? Nonetheless, having a successful claim requires the assistance of an experienced employment law attorney. This article discusses sexual harassment and the damages you may be able to recover by pursuing a lawsuit.

Sexual Harassment Lawsuits

Sexual Harassment Lawsuits

What is Sexual Harassment?

Sexual harassment is considered to be a form of unlawful sex discrimination under federal law — Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII), the New York State Human Rights Law, the New York City Human Rights law and the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination. Two types of sexual harassment exist — quid pro quo and hostile work environment.

Quid pro quo sexual harassment occurs when an employer, usually someone in a position of authority such as a business owner, executive, manager, or supervisor, demands sexual favors as a condition of employment. This type of sexual harassment may also entail the same kind of pressure in exchange for job benefits such as raises, bonuses, promotions, etc. An employee who is terminated, demoted or punished in other ways for refusing a sexual advance may be the victim of quid pro quo sexual harassment.

A hostile work environment is the other form of sexual harassment. This involves an employee being subject to a pattern of unwelcome conduct such as comments, sexual advances or pictures. For the conduct to be unlawful under Title VII, it must be either severe or pervasive enough to change the conditions of employment. The standard under the New York State Human Rights Law and New York City Human Rights Law is lower: the employee must show only that he or she was treated less well than other co-workers because of his/her gender.

Sexual harassment does not only pertain to authority figures — it can also occur when coworkers create a hostile work environment. It is also not limited to male on female or female on male sexual harassment. The law recognizes same-sex harassment.

Sexual Harassment Lawsuits

Pursuing a Claim for Sexual Harassment

To file a claim under Title VII, the employee must first file a charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) or a similar agency in your state. Title VII also is limited to employers with 15 or more employees.

No requirement exists under the New York State Human Rights Law, New York City Human Rights Law or New Jersey Law Against Discrimination to file a charge with the EEOC or similar state agency. Also, the New York State Human Rights Law and New York City Human Rights Law have a lower employee threshold: it covers any employer that has 4 or more employees, counting the owner(s).

Sexual Harassment Lawsuits

What kind of damages can I recover in a sexual harassment lawsuit?

If your lawsuit prevails, you may be able to recover damages such as back pay, front pay, or emotional distress-related damages. In some cases, punitive damages may also be awarded.

Back pay will be awarded if you were fired, denied a raise or a promotion, or any other adverse employment action was taken against you for filing a sexual harassment complaint. In particular, back pay includes wages, bonuses, paid time off, and the monetary value of benefits such as health insurance, retirement benefits, etc.

Under federal law, you may also be entitled to reinstatement. This means that if you were fired or quit due to sexual harassment, you must be allowed to return to your job. Because this is often unworkable, however, you may be awarded front pay. This is designed to compensate you for wage losses you are likely to sustain in the future.

Depending on the circumstances, compensatory damages and punitive damages may also be available. Compensatory damages are designed to award you for any emotional distress you suffered because of sexual harassment on the job. These damages are also referred to as pain and suffering. Moreover, you may be awarded damages for pain and suffering if your reputation has been harmed or you incurred out of pocket costs, such as medical bills for counseling or job search costs.

If the court finds the employer was aware of the sexual harassment but did not take corrective action, punitive damages may also be awarded. Such damages are designed not only to punish an employer’s misconduct but also to dissuade other employers from not taking corrective action over sexual harassment claims. Finally, if your claim is successful, you will also be awarded attorneys fees and other legal costs. This means you will not pay any attorneys fees in advance since many law firms handle such cases on a contingency basis.

Sexual Harassment Lawsuits

The Takeaway

In the end, all employees have a right to a work environment free from sexual harassment. While the majority of sexual harassment victims are women, because men are more often in positions of power, men can also be subjected to sexual harassment in the workplace. Similarly, same-sex sexual harassment can also occur.

It is important to remember that there are powerful remedies available under state and federal, state, and city laws. If you are being harassed by a supervisor or a coworker on the job. If the behavior persists, consult with an employment law attorney at Lipsky Lowe who has experience pursuing sexual harassment claims.

About the Author

Douglas Lipsky is a co-founding partner of Lipsky Lowe, LLP. He has extensive experience in all areas of employment law, including discrimination, sexual harassment, hostile work environment, retaliation, wrongful discharge, breach of contract, unpaid overtime, and unpaid tips. He regularly represents individuals in state and federal court. He, additionally, regularly represents clients in complex wage and hour claims, including collective actions under the federal Fair Labor Standards Act and class actions under the laws of many different states.

Sexual Harassment Lawsuits