Sexual harassment occurs whenever someone abuses their authority in the workplace to try to coerce someone into some kind of sexual activity, or whenever one or more people subject someone to an unwelcome and hostile work environment based on sex. New York City sexual harassment attorneys routinely bring lawsuits on behalf of workers who have experienced these types of misconduct. The New York Attorney General (AG) is also taking a role in fighting against workplace sexual harassment under state, federal, and city law. The AG’s office announced this summer that it had concluded an investigation into allegations of sexual harassment and retaliation at a Long Island construction company. It also stated that it had reached a settlement agreement with the company, in which the company will pay $1.5 million in damages.
A legal claim for sexual harassment can arise from specific acts or patterns of conduct by individual employees, as well as from systemic failures by an employer that allow sexual harassment to persist in a workplace. Claims alleging a hostile work environment often require proof not only that an employee faced unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature that was either pervasive or severe, but also that the employer knew or should have known about the problematic behavior and failed to take reasonable actions to address it.
Since October 2018, state law has required employers to provide sexual harassment prevention training for all of their employees. Employers may use a model training program developed by the state, or they can use their own as long as it meets certain minimum standards.
The AG began investigating the construction company in early 2018, after receiving complaints of sexual harassment and hostile work environment from multiple employees. It concluded that supervisors at the company had engaged in “severe sexual harassment” of numerous female employees, including “solicitation of sexual favors” and “graphic text and video communications.” It also found that employees in non-supervisory roles “regularly harassed female workers,” with examples that included unwanted touching, indecent exposure, and “vulgar, explicit comments.” The company allegedly retaliated against many of the workers who complained of sexual harassment.
The company, according to the AG, had “a systemic failure in training, protection, and response to sexual harassment.” The AG concluded that the company’s sexual harassment policy “was extremely inadequate” with regard to training employees and investigating allegations.
Under the settlement agreement, the company agreed to comply with the New York State Human Rights Law and other applicable statutes, to develop new sexual harassment policies and training, and to conduct regular trainings for all employees. It also agreed to refrain from retaliating against any employee who cooperated with the investigation. The company must submit to compliance monitoring and provide reports to the AG. It agreed to pay $1.5 million to the AG, most of which “will be used as restitution to current or former employees.”
If you have experienced sexual harassment or other violations of New York City’s employment laws, the employment attorneys at Phillips & Associates are available to advocate for your rights. Please contact us today online or at (212) 248-7431 to schedule a free and confidential consultation with a member of our team.