Working Women of New York: Know Your Rights on Sexual Harassment

Last week, ABB launched The Working Woman's Pocket Guide. Over the next few weeks, we’ll break down each section of the guide, starting with sexual harassment. Know Your Rights. Because knowledge is power.
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Sexual harassment at work in New York

Last week, ABB launched The Working Woman’s Pocket Guide. The guide provides a user-friendly way for women in New York to understand their rights in the workplace, from sexual harassment to equal pay to paid family leave to healthcare coverage, and much more. For the next few weeks, we’re going to bring the guide to you, breaking down each section.

Today, we are spotlighting your rights if you believe you are being sexually harassed in the workplace:

If you work in New York, you are legally protected from sexual harassment in the workplace pursuant to federal, state, and local laws.

What is sexual harassment?

Sexual harassment is physical or verbal conduct of a sexual nature that unreasonably interferes with your work performance, affects your employment, or makes your workplace intimidating, hostile, or offensive.

Am I covered?

All workers, including domestic workers, in New York State are legally protected from sexual harassment at work.

What kinds of behavior constitute sexual harassment?

Sexual harassment can include a boss or co-worker who:

  • Makes your advancement in the workplace (e.g. a promotion, shift change, or access to benefits or job opportunities) contingent upon your doing some kind of sexual favor in return or engages in sexual conduct that is used as a basis for hiring or other employment decisions.
  • Makes unwanted sexual advances towards you.
  • Makes you feel uncomfortable through words or actions directed either towards you or towards a colleague.
  • Makes sexual comments or jokes.
  • Pressures you to go on dates.
  • Harasses you when you are pregnant (i.e. jokes about your pregnancy weight gain or makes comments about being overly sensitive or emotional because you are pregnant).
  • Tries to intimidate you because you are a woman and interferes with your job.

Even if your boss or co-worker makes just one joke or one comment, this could constitute sexual harassment.

What happens if my employer punishes me for complaining about sexual harassment or filing a sexual harassment complaint?

It is against the law for your employer to take negative action against you for complaining about sexual harassment or filing a sexual harassment complaint. This means they cannot fire or demote you, cut your hours or pay, force you to take a leave, or re-assign you to a different shift or location.

It is illegal for your employer to retaliate against you for:

  • Complaining that another employee has experienced sexual harassment.
  • Encouraging a colleague to report harassment.
  • Filing a complaint internally with human resources or management of your company or with a government agency.

A couple additional notes:

  • These laws apply to you regardless of your immigration or citizenship status.
  • The information listed in this section does not constitute legal advice. It is always advisable to consult with an attorney about your individual circumstances if you have questions or think your rights as a worker have been violated.

To view a .pdf version of the Working Woman’s Pocket Guide, click here.

If you believe you have been sexually harassed at work or have questions about your rights, we are here to help. A Better Balance’s free, confidential legal hotline can help you understand your workplace rights. We offer services in English and Spanish. Call us at (212) 430–5982.

This blog post is part of an ongoing series.

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