The NYC Human Rights Law protects all individuals against discrimination based on gender, which includes sexual harassment in the workplace, in housing, and in public accommodations like stores and restaurants. Sexual harassment is unwelcome verbal or physical behavior based on a person’s gender and can include unwanted touching; offensive and suggestive gestures or comments; asking about a person’s sex life or making sexualized remarks about a person’s appearance; sexualizing the work environment with imagery or other items; or telling sexual jokes. Violators can be held accountable with civil penalties of up to $250,000 in the case of a willful violation.
The Commission can also assess emotional distress damages and other remedies to the victim, can require the Violator to undergo training, and can mandate other remedies such as community service.
On May 9, 2018, Mayor Bill de Blasio signed the Stop Sexual Harassment in NYC Act, a comprehensive legislative package aimed at addressing and preventing sexual harassment in the workplace, into law. Included in the package is an expansion of the City Human Rights Law in cases of gender-based harassment to increase the statute of limitations from one year to three years and expand protections to all employees, regardless of the size of their employer.
Additional obligations for employers include:
1. Under Local Law 96 of 2018, employers with 15 or more employees are required to conduct annual anti-sexual harassment training for all employees. Effective April 2019, employers must ensure all employees are trained annually, beginning with Calendar Year 2019, and every year thereafter. The Commission will develop and share an online training to be available on its website that will satisfy this requirement on or before April 1, 2019. Employers may also choose to provide their own annual anti-sexual harassment training for employees provided that it includes the following elements:
Employers shall keep a record of all trainings, including a signed employee acknowledgement. These may be kept electronically.
2. Under Local Law 95 of 2018, all employers in the City are required to conspicuously display anti-sexual harassment rights and responsibilities notices in both English (Legal size, Letter size) and Spanish (Legal size, Letter size) and distribute a factsheet (English, Spanish) to individual employees at the time of hire which may be included in an employee handbook.
Sonia is a cocktail server in a bar/restaurant. She likes the job and the tips she is making. However, one of the regular customers gives her a hard time. He touches her when she walks by and occasionally makes comments about her body. Sonia has told her boss who tells her to “deal with it” because she is making good tips.
Anna is a recent immigrant to the United States and has a job cleaning office buildings in the evening. Her supervisor has brushed up against her, flirted with her, and recently told her that unless she goes to bed with him she will lose her job. Anna is frightened and does not say anything to anyone.
Tim, a communications assistant, frequently tells crude jokes about sex during department meetings. Beth, a graphic artist, is very offended and doesn’t think Tim’s jokes are funny. She tells Tim to stop, but he doesn’t stop and says she is being “overly sensitive” and that it’s just a joke.
If you are sexually harassed or discriminated against based on a protected category under the Law in New York City, please report this to the NYC Commission on Human Rights. Call 718–722–3131 or visit NYC.gov/HumanRights to fill out an online complaint form.
If you believe you are a victim of sexual harassment inform a manager or the equal employment opportunity officer at your workplace as soon as possible.
View our "Complaint Process" infographic and watch the helpful video below for an overview of the reporting process so you can have a thorough understanding of the Commission's work in investigating acts of discrimination in New York City.
Violators can be held accountable with civil penalties of up to $250,000 in the case of a willful violation. The Commission can also assess emotional distress damages and other remedies to the victim without limit, can require the Violator to undergo training, and can mandate other remedies such as community service.
When it comes to workplace sexual harassment, stigma and a fear of retribution often discourage victims from speaking out. It is critical that individual bystanders learn to recognize and intervene in instances of sexual harassment.
Bystander education and trainings can help individuals better understand sexual harassment in the workplace and how to recognize, speak out, and report it. Bystanders who take action often play an important role in disrupting the sexual harassment and improving the work environment.
For more resources and information about bystander intervention, please visit ihollaback.org
Sexual harassment is also unlawful under state and federal law.
To file a complaint with the New York State Division of Human Rights, please visit the Division’s website.
To file a charge with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), please visit the EEOC’s website.