For many New York City workers, sexual harassment in the workplace is a stark reality. Unfortunately, incidences of sexual harassment are prevalent in today’s workplaces. Between 2018 and 2021, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission received a total of 27,921 sexual harassment reports. But what can you do if you’ve experienced sexual harassment in the workplace? Are there Limits to Damages in Sexual Harassment Lawsuits? Take a deep dive with us into the federal and state laws that protect workers from sexual harassment and explore the remedies you may be entitled to if you are a survivor.
What Laws Protect Me in New York City Against Sexual Harassment in the Workplace?
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act prohibits discrimination based on sex. As a form of discrimination, sexual harassment is prohibited under the Act.
In addition to federal law, state law prohibits sexual harassment in the workplace under the New York State Human Rights Law (NYSHRL). The New York City Administrative Code, commonly referred to as the New York City Human Rights Law, also prohibits sexual harassment in the workplace.
What Do I Need to Prove to Recover Under Federal and State Laws?
To recover under both federal and state law, claimants must prove that the employer subjected them to a “hostile work environment”.
A hostile work environment occurs when unwanted discriminatory conduct is based on:
- National origin
- Sexual orientation
- Gender identity
- Discrimination based on other protected classes
Each type of discrimination is equal and allows for the same amount of possible compensation.
What is the Difference Between Title VII of the Civil Rights Act and NYSHRL?
The NYSHRL makes it easier for victims to file claims and obtain larger amounts of compensation. It applies to all employers regardless of their size. It also codifies harassment as being prohibited, whereas harassment is inferred from discrimination in Title VII. The NYSHRL also differs from Title VII in that non-employees are also protected.
The federal standard of proof for sexual harassment claims is stricter: victims must show that the harassment was severe or pervasive. Under NYSHRL, the standard is less stringent and offers protections to anyone subjected to “inferior terms, conditions or privileges of employment”.
The NYSHRL eliminates the affirmative defense that allows an employer to avoid liability when:
- The employer attempted to prevent and correct the harassing behavior; and
- When the employee failed to take advantage of preventative and corrective opportunities
How Does State and Federal Law Limit Damages in Sexual Harassment Lawsuits?
Under Federal law, the claimant must prove that the harassment was severe or pervasive to receive full damages.
The NYSHRL, however, only allows the reduction in damages if “the harassing conduct does not rise above the level of what a reasonable victim of discrimination would consider petty slights or trivial inconveniences”.
What Type of Compensation Can I Receive Under the State Law?
Under the NYSHRL, claimants can receive both punitive damages and attorneys’ fees in certain cases. These exceptions only apply to disputes between claimants and private employers – state and public entities aren’t applicable. This allows employees of private employers to receive much larger payouts than under federal law.
How Can I Bring a Claim for Sexual Harassment?
It’s not always easy to determine whether you qualify under a state or federal law or to know what amount of damages you can expect. Experienced Sexual Harassment Attorneys NYC can evaluate your case, apply the most favorable laws, and work to get you the full amount possible in damages. If you’re ready to get started on your case evaluation, contact Ricotta & Marks, P.C. today at (347) 535-0999.