Sexual Harassment in the Workplace
Discrimination of others based on gender is a civil rights violation that is not uncommon. This type of discrimination can take many forms including pregnancy discrimination, sexual harassment, and unequal pay for the same job. According to the United States Department of Labor, women make up almost half of the U.S. workforce and by 2018 it is projected that a majority of the total labor force will be female.
Workplace harassment occurs when an office or workplace becomes a hostile work environment due to sexually charged comments or actions directed at an employee. This type of harassment can take many forms. If you or someone you know thinks they have been the victim of workplace discrimination, contact the best sexual harassment attorneys NYC has to offer.
Know Your Rights Under Title VII
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII) forbids discrimination based on gender in several aspects of employment including hiring, firing, pay rate, job assignments, layoffs, promotions, fringe benefits, training, and any other term of employment. Title VII also prohibits retaliation for protected activity by the victim, which includes filing a charge of discrimination, complaining to the employer about discrimination, participating in an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) investigation, and otherwise opposing discriminatory behavior. In other words, an employer cannot retaliate against a victim of sexual harassment – or someone opposing that harassment – for exercising his or her rights under the law.
An employer, generally, is responsible for harassment conducted by a supervisor that resulted in an employment action – such as discipline, termination, hiring or promotion. If an employment action did not occur, the employer must prove that it (1) exercised reasonable care to prevent and correct the harassment; and (2) the employee unreasonably failed to avoid harm or complain to management. If the harassment occurs by another employee or a third party, an employer will likely be liable if it had control over the person or knew – or should have known – about the conduct, unless it can be proven that the employer took prompt and reasonable action to correct the situation.
Reasons for Title VII
Sexual harassment is a centuries-old practice. Prior to Title VII, a woman could legally be fired if she got pregnant or married. Additionally, jobs were segregated by gender in newspaper help-wanted ads and it was not uncommon for a woman who applied to a “man’s job” to be refused even if her qualifications surpassed those of her male counterparts. In the rare circumstance that a woman was hired in a “man’s job”, unequal pay was not only legal but often justified because men were often the breadwinners. Moreover, sexual harassment in the workplace was simply a fact of life at work.
While sex discrimination has been illegal since Title VII’s landmark enactment in 1964, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) did not issue guidelines that defined sexual harassment as illegal sex-based discrimination under Title VII until 1980. Civil lawsuits were not brought under Title VII until the 1970s, and the U.S. Supreme Court did not consider the issue until the 1980s. While women are not the only victims of sexual harassment, they do make up the majority of this group.
Legal Help in New York
Sexual harassment or some other type of discrimination should not be tolerated in the workplace, especially because there are laws in place to protect victims of this inappropriate environment. If you or someone you know has been experiencing sexual harassment in the workplace from colleagues or a supervisor, contact Ricotta & Marks, P.C. right away to tell your story. Our legal professionals are well-versed in federal, state and local laws that govern these cases. Contact the NYC office at (347)-464-8694 today for a free case evaluation.