Sexual harassment takes many forms. Sometimes a coworker makes inappropriate sexist “jokes” in the office. In other cases, a manager directs sexually charged comments toward a subordinate. New York employers must take affirmative steps to identify and stop any such conduct. It is unacceptable–and illegal–for an employer to excuse harassing conduct as “just kidding around” and “no big deal.”
EEOC Sues Bronx Employer Over Manager's Sexual Harassment of Female Colleagues
On August 21, 2018, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) filed a lawsuit against a New York employer over sexual harassment allegations. The EEOC is the federal agency responsible for investigating sex and gender discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. When the EEOC has substantial evidence of sexual harassment, it may pursue civil damages on behalf of the affected employees.
According to the EEOC's complaint, the Bronx-based defendant “engaged in unlawful employment practices” under Title VII when it subjected a “group of female employees” to sexual harassment. More specifically, the EEOC alleged:
- One of the defendant's managers “routinely treated female employees … in a hostile and verbally abusive manner.” This included “swearing at” and “belittling” female–but not male–subordinates.
- This same manager “frequently directed unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature at female employees,” including comments about their bodies and clothing, as well as more direct “sexual advances.” For example, the EEOC said the manager “frequently” asked one female employee out on dates–and on at least one occasion made “unwanted physical contact” with her.
- The defendant employer was aware of the manager's sexual harassment and failed to take action. More precisely, a female supervisor dismissed the manager's sexually unwanted comments as “playful” jokes.
The EEOC's lawsuit seeks a permanent injunction against the defendant and its management from engaging in future acts of sexual harassment, including implementation of appropriate policies. The Commission also seeks an unspecified amount of compensation on behalf of the harassed employees for their economic and non-economic losses, the latter including the victims' “emotional pain, suffering, inconvenience, loss of enjoyment of life, and humiliation.” Finally, the EEOC is seeking punitive damages and court costs associated with its lawsuit.
Get Legal Advice on Your NYC Sexual Harassment Claim
A lawsuit is a statement of allegations. As of this writing, no court has ruled on the merits of the EEOC's lawsuit or the defendant's liability. However, the EEOC's complaint illustrates the type of conduct that may constitute illegal sexual harassment under federal law. Keep in mind, New York State and New York City also have laws governing sexual harassment and sex discrimination, which in some cases cover a broader range of conduct than Title VII.
Also note that if you are the victim of sexual harassment, you have the right to seek your own counsel from a qualified New York employment law attorney. Contact the Law Offices of White, Nisar & Hilferty, LLP, if you have been the victim of discriminatory conduct at work and need independent legal advice on what steps to take next.