Sexual Harassment Prohibition Not Just for Famous Perpetrators and Victims

12.06.2017

To employers, managers, employees and everyone else in the workplace:

Surely most have heard about the many celebrities who have recently been accused of, and/or admitted to, serious acts of sexual harassment. Some of these acts were so extreme and outrageous, or occurred in places like Hollywood, that it might be easy to forget that the law prohibits severe and pervasive sex-related conduct in all New York workplaces with at least four employees.

The following is conduct that could be part of a sexual harassment allegation, even though it might not immediately seem to be of that nature:

  • Hugging
  • Rubbing a back, arm, leg, neck, etc.
  • Telling jokes/repeating plots from TV shows/movies
  • Complimenting or criticizing clothes, perfumes/cologne, hairstyle, etc.
  • Asking out to drinks, coffee, dinner, etc.
  • Talking about relationship problems with a spouse, girlfriend/boyfriend, significant other, etc.
  • Discussing dating/social scene
  • Staring at someone across the office, conference room, hallway
  • Confessing to activities/interests/wishes of a sexual nature

Certainly, context is absolutely crucial and this area of law does not lend itself to black-and-white standards. However, in this current environment, extraordinary care must be taken to avoid possible liability.

We are glad to review employee handbook policies prohibiting sexual harassment for compliance, and we also frequently conduct sexual harassment prevention training for employers.