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Understanding and addressing work-related sexual harassment

New York residents may recognize that sexual harassment is a serious issue, but dealing with problems such as offensive jokes or requests for sexual favors may result in a hostile work environment. It is important to understand what sexual harassment is and how to deal with unwanted conduct based on gender-related discriminatory behavoirs. Actions may be considered as sexual discrimination if they are used to make employment decisions related to hiring, raises or promotions. In addition, activities that create a hostile or offensive setting at work may also be considered as sexual harassment.

Activities classified as sexual harassment may include verbal, physical or visual behaviors and can range from offensive jokes to unwanted sexual advances. It is important to note that both men and women are protected by Title VII of the 1964 federal Civil Rights Act. This allows an employe to raise a complaint about the behaviors in question, and complaints can also be raised by third parties who are no the victim of the harassment directly.

An individual concerned about addressing sexual harassment incidents may wonder what the proper steps are in reporting an issue. Many companies have a designated personnel or human resources representative to field such complaints, and it is important to follow established protocol when reporting a problem. It may also be wise to discuss the situation with a lawyer in order to know what to expect from an employer when a response to a report is made. Deadlines are important, and a lawyer may provide insight about timing for addressing problems.

If an employer fails to properly resolve a sexual harassment issue on the job, a lawyer may recommend filing a complaint with an entity such as the New York State Division of Human Rights. A sexual harassment suit might also be brought in some cases.

Source: New York State Office of the Attorney General, "Sexual Harassment In The Worplace", September 03, 2014

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