Law Offices of Mitchell Schley, LLC

New York and New Jersey Labor and Employment Lawyer

197 Route 18 South
South Tower – Suite 3000
East Brunswick, NJ 08816
Phone: (732) 325-0318
Fax: (732) 325-0317

245 Park Avenue, 39th Floor,
New York, NY 10167
Phone: (212) 672-1848
Fax: (212) 372-8798

mschley@schleylaw.com

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(732) 325-0318

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About Mitchell Schley, ESQ

Sex Harassment

Today’s topic concerns sexual harassment in the workplace which is illegal in every state. Many women in the community have been victims of sexual harassment by their bosses but have often been afraid to do anything about it. This no longer needs to happen because there are now laws that prohibit this conduct and the company can be liable to the women for a large amount of money.

The law defines sexual harassment as behavior of a sexual nature that is unwelcome by the employee. Sexual harassment may involve one highly offensive incident or a series of smaller incidents. The law divides sexual harassment into two basic categories. The first category is when a supervisor asks for a sexual favor in exchange for something. For example, a supervisor tells a female employee that she will get a raise or a promotion if she provides a sexual favor. Another situation is when a supervisor threatens to fire or penalize an employee if she does not provide a sexual favor. The company is legally liable for sexual harassment even if the supervisor does not follow through with the promise or the threat.

The second category of sexual harassment is when a supervisor does not ask for a sexual favor in exchange for something, but instead creates a sexually hostile work environment. A hostile work environment is an offensive or intimidating work environment where the supervisor engages in conduct such as sexual jokes, teasing, discussions, offensive language, or inappropriate pictures. It is, of course, also sexual harassment if the boss touches the employee.

It is important to recognize that a company is liable for sexual harassment if it is committed against an employee not just a boss but by co-workers. In that situation, the employee must inform the company such as the human resources department about the sexual harassment by co-workers. If the company does not take action against the co-workers such as firing or disciplining them, then the company is liable to the female employee and may have to pay large penalties.

All companies are required by law to maintain a policy prohibiting sexual harassment of all types and to communicate and enforce the policy. Most companies post the policy or put it in the employee handbook. The policy states that the conduct that is prohibited and gives the name of the manager in the company who is responsible for receiving complaints from employees who believe they have been sexually harassed. Generally, the company tries to keep the complaint and any investigation it does confidential. The company tries to make sure that the woman who complains is not retaliated against for making the complaint.

Because there have been many court cases in which companies have had to pay large sums of money to female employees because of sexual harassment, most companies take complaints about sexual harassment by supervisors and co-workers very seriously. That is the reason many companies train their supervisors about the need to prevent sexual harassment and the need to monitor the conduct of their employees.

It is a good idea for a woman who feels that she is being sexually harassed to tell the supervisor or co-worker that she is not interested in engaging in any activity with that person or does not want to hear sexual comments. The employee should send a clear message so there is confusion on the part of the supervisor or co-worker. Therefore, it is not for example, smart to invite the harasser to lunch or dinner or parties. Remember that in order to file a lawsuit for sexual harassment you need to establish that you were not happy about the conduct of the supervisor or co-worker. The woman needs to show that the conduct was unwelcome.

The company is also responsible to protect its employees against sexual harassment committed not by supervisors or co-workers but by third parties who interact with employees. These could be for example vendors, salespersons, consultants or technicians who are present at the workplace but who work for other companies.

If you feel you are a victim of sexual harassment in the workplace, you should keep notes of the incidents, and you may wish to discuss the situation with a lawyer who specializes in employment law.

Mitchell Schley is an attorney who practices labor law at the Law Offices of Mitchell Schley, LLC, in East Brunswick and New York City. Feel free to contact him if you have a question about this article or any other labor law issue. He can be reached at (732) 325-0318 or at www.schleylaw.com.

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Law Offices of Mitchell Schley, LLC
197 Route 18 South, South Tower – Suite 3000, East Brunswick, NJ 08816 • Phone: (732) 325-0318 • Fax: (732) 325-0317
245 Park Avenue, 39th Floor, New York, NY 10167 • Phone: (212) 672-1848 • Fax: (212) 372-8798
mschley@schleylaw.com
Contact us today »