You know your supervisor should not make sexual jokes and comments to you at work, but you aren’t sure what to do about it. Perhaps you are new to your job and you don’t want to rock the boat, or you are afraid your company will fire you. You should ask the person to stop. That can feel scary when the person is your boss, but they may not know they have crossed a line. Keep in mind that New York companies are taking sexual harassment more seriously than ever, and you have the law on your side. If your harasser does not stop, you should file a complaint. Here are a few steps to follow when reporting your sexual harassment claim at work:
- Find the right person to report to. Depending on the company, you may find this easy or very confusing. If your company has a human resources (HR) person or department, you are in luck. Handling these types of complaints is their job. If you don’t have an HR department, you may report the behavior to your boss or anyone else in charge. Make your complaint in writing and keep a record of it.
- What if nothing changes? Your complaint may spark an investigation and even a reprimand of your harasser. If nothing changes, however, you will have to take your complaint a step further. In New York City, you have a few options for this. You can file another complaint within your company in hopes that the company will take stronger action. Or you can file with a government agency or file a lawsuit. An employment law attorney can explain the options for your specific situation.
- Filing with an agency. Several agencies investigate sexual harassment claims. If you plan to file a federal lawsuit against the company, you must file a claim with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), who will decide whether to investigate your claim. You have a short window of time to file with the EEOC, so don’t delay. You can also file with the New York State Division of Human Rights or the New York City Human Rights Commission (NYCHRC), both of which have strong legal protections.
- Investigation and mediation. If you file a complaint with any of the agencies, they will investigate your claim and decide if they find probable cause to take further action, which may include reprimands, trainings and civil penalties. At some point, they may encourage you and your employer to take part in mediation, where you sit down together to try to settle the matter. The NYCHRC may recommend the case be heard by an administrative law judge.
- Bringing a lawsuit in court. Your final step is to bring a civil lawsuit in court against your employer. If you file in state court, you do not need to go through an agency process first. To bring a federal case, you must go through the EEOC.
Remember that your employer is not allowed to retaliate against you for bringing your claim. If your boss or coworkers treat you differently or take any negative action against you, you will also have a claim for retaliation.