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4 things you need to know about sexual harassment

Sexual harassment is, unfortunately, still alive and well in the workplace. You may have already experienced it and accepted it as part of the standard office culture.

As a young woman, finishing your last semester at NYU while simultaneously working in your first internship with that big Wall Street trading firm, you may be afraid to rock the boat too much by filing a complaint. You may not be 100 percent sure that what you've experienced in the office is actually considered sexual harassment.

Sexual harassment is a serious matter that you should not ignore. You have the right to work in an environment where you are not subjected to any form of gender-based discrimination, especially unwelcome sexual conduct.

You worked hard to get where you are and you deserve to be treated with respect. If you have been the victim of sexual harassment, take the necessary steps to protect your rights and the rights of other victims by filing a complaint.

Read below for information on the four things you need to know about sexual harassment.

Examples of sexual harassment

Sexual harassment is a type of discrimination that is based on gender. It is unwanted sexual conduct used as a basis for employment decisions such as hiring, firing, raises, promotions, and even assignments.

Sexual harassment also occurs when an intimidating, hostile, or offensive work environment is created through unwelcomed sexual conduct or advances.

The harassment can be verbal, visual, or physical. It includes:

  • Offensive remarks or jokes that are sexual in nature
  • Touching or groping
  • Coerced acts
  • Requests for sexual favors or suggestive acts

Other acts that are considered sexual harassment include:

  • The display of pornographic images
  • Sexual gestures
  • Comments about a person's gender or sexual preferences whether they are complimentary or derogatory

Protected parties

The law provides protections for men and women who are victims of sexual harassment. You are also protected from harassers that are of the same sex, regardless of your sexual orientation.

The law also protects third parties. For example, if your colleague is being harassed and that harassment is creating a stressful and intimidating work environment, you have the right to file a complaint.

How to file a complaint

When filing a complaint about sexual harassment, you should first follow workplace procedures. Contact the person designated to handle such complaints.

Next, consult an attorney that can explain all available options.

If your complaint is part of a pattern of occurrence at your workplace, the New York State Office of Attorney General Civil Rights Bureau may investigate the firm.

It is also possible that you may be able to file a lawsuit against your employer, depending on the circumstances of your case.

Handling retaliation

Retaliation occurs when you are negatively affected at work after filing a complaint. For example, if you are demoted or your hours are cut after you have complained about sexual harassment, you may be experiencing retaliation. If you are retaliated against after making a complaint, you may be able to file a separate claim.

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