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Sexual Harassment by Supervisors

Employment Attorneys Representing Workers in New York

Supervisors have positions of authority in the workplace and are expected to guide their employees and maintain a safe and respectful environment. Unfortunately, some supervisors abuse their power and direct sexual comments and actions toward their employees. Unwelcome sexual conduct not only makes people uncomfortable but also constitutes sexual harassment and is unlawful. People who encounter sexual harassment by supervisors may have a viable claim for damages, and it is smart to consult an attorney. The knowledgeable New York sexual harassment lawyers at Gerstman Schwartz have the resources and skills required to hold supervisors who harass their employees accountable.

Sexual Harassment by Supervisors

Unwelcome sexual advances, sexual comments, requests for sexual favors, and sharing pornographic materials are all examples of sexual harassment. Sexual harassment is not limited to behavior or comments of a sexual nature, however, and can include inappropriate remarks regarding a person’s sex. Essentially, there are two types of sexual harassment committed by supervisors: hostile work environment and quid pro quo.

Sexual harassment creates a hostile work environment when it changes the terms of a person’s employment or results in inferior conditions or unfavorable treatment. Quid pro quo sexual harassment occurs when a supervisor requests that an employee or potential employee engage in sexual acts in exchange for a job, a promotion, or retaining a position. It can also occur when a supervisor terminates, demotes, refuses to hire, or otherwise negatively affects a person’s employment for refusing to engage in sexual activity with the supervisor.

Recovering Damages for Sexual Harassment by Supervisors

In general, there are three laws that protect people from sexual harassment in the workplace: Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII), the New York State Human Rights Law (NYSHRL), and the New York City Human Rights Law (NYCHRL). While Title VII does not explicitly address sexual harassment, it prohibits discrimination based on gender, and the courts have interpreted gender discrimination to include sexual harassment. Similarly, the courts interpret the NYCHRL’s provisions dealing with gender discrimination as barring sexual harassment. The NYSHRL specifically outlaws harassment based on a person’s inclusion in a protected class, such as a person’s sex or gender.

People who are sexually harassed by their supervisors may be able to recover damages in civil lawsuits. The claims asserted will depend on the type of behavior in which the supervisor engaged and other factors. In many instances, however, a victim of sexual harassment by a supervisor will be able to pursue claims against both the supervisor and the employer. Typically, there must be a specific basis for imputing liability for the supervisor’s conduct to the employer.

In cases in which a supervisor harasses an employee, and the harassment results in an adverse employment action, an employer may be deemed strictly liable. In some instances, an employer may attempt to argue that the harasser was not a supervisor. The New York courts have explained that employees with decision-making power, such as the authority to take tangible employment actions toward other employees and exercise independent discretion regarding the status of other employees, may be considered supervisors regardless of their official title. Employers may also be held liable for negligently failing to prevent harassment from occurring by neglecting to respond to complaints or not providing a system for complaints to be voiced.

Speak to an Experienced New York Attorney

Many sexual harassment lawsuits result from the inappropriate behavior of supervisors, and supervisors and their employers can be held accountable for the harm that victims suffer. If you were sexually harassed by your supervisor, you should seek legal counsel regarding your options. At Gerstman Schwartz, our New York attorneys can set forth compelling arguments on your behalf to provide you with a strong chance of a favorable result. We regularly represent people in sexual harassment lawsuits in New York City and Nassau and Suffolk Counties. You can contact us at our New York City office at (212) 227-7070, at our Garden City office at (516) 880-8170, or through our online form to set up a meeting.

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