As the #MeToo movement spreads, new allegations of sexual misconduct and abuse seem to appear every day. High-profile men have been implicated, both nationally and right here in New York.
Since the Harvey Weinstein story broke in early October, at least 46 powerful men have been accused, leading to various degrees of fallout. Here are just a few examples:
- Matt Lauer was fired from his position as anchor on NBC’s Today
- Charlie Rose, prominent journalist for CBS and PBS, was also fired.
- Minnesota Senator Al Franken resigned his Senate seat.
- Garrison Keillor, former host of A Prairie Home Companion, has been ousted from Minnesota Public Radio.
- John Lasseter, CCO of Walt Disney Animation Studios and Pixar, is taking a six-month break after apologizing for missteps.
- Mark Halperin, political analyst for NBC and MSNBC, has been fired and two of his future projects have been canceled.
- Glenn Thrush, writer for The New York Times, has been suspended from his post.
- Peter Martins, head of New York City Ballet, has been removed from his weekly teaching position.
- Steve McLaughlin, assemblyman for the New York State legislature, will no longer be permitted to have interns work in his office.
- Israel Horovitz, award-winning New York playwright, has been accused of sexual misconduct and abuse over the past few decades by nine women. His son Adam Horovitz, member of The Beastie Boys, has stated that he stands behind the women’s allegations and believes they are true.
It remains to be seen whether those accused in the #MeToo movement will face prosecution. Legal penalties are typically given out based on two principles: intent to commit a crime, and the severity of the crime.
A central idea propelling the movement is that victims have borne the brunt of the suffering for too long, while their abusers faced few or no consequences for their actions. Recent events, however, may indicate that the tide is turning toward making offenders experience legal consequences for their actions.
With all signs pointing to the fact that we are at a cultural tipping point, where behavior like this will no longer be tolerated, many New Yorkers are wondering what they can do to continue the fight against sexual harassment.
It starts with understanding our state’s laws.
New York’s Laws on Sexual Harassment
Knowledge of the laws can help you understand how to address situations you may consider acts of sexual harassment.
New York laws define two types of sexual harassment:
- Quid pro quo – an individual in power solicits sexual favors in exchange for providing employment benefits.
- Hostile work environment – An employer allows or engages in behavior that creates an atmosphere of offense or intimidation. Another example is permitting behavior that interferes with your ability to do your job.
The New York State Human Rights Law (HRL) offers protection to individuals experiencing “severe or pervasive” harassment. Sexual harassment can be verbal, written, or physical. However, you cannot file a complaint for a single incident, unless the incident can be classified as sexual assault.
The HRL prevents discrimination based on personal characteristics like gender, race, age, and sexual orientation in workplaces with four or more employees. The HRL also protects unpaid interns from sexual harassment.
How to File a Complaint
According to guidelines from the New York Attorney General’s office, you must take these steps to file a sexual harassment claim.
- Firstly, contact the HR department or the person specified to receive complaints within your workplace.
- Also consult with an experienced NY sexual harassment attorney to know how to proceed.
- Adhere to the deadlines for filing, which are usually six months from the time of the incident(s).
- Report your claim to the Civil Rights Bureau and/or the city or county where you work. If you are a New York City resident, report your claim to the New York City Commission on Human Rights.
- The Civil Rights Bureau will determine whether your case is valid, and may conduct an investigation or take legal action.
- You can file a federal claim with the U. S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), which investigates businesses with at least 15 employees.
- You may also file a civil lawsuit.
Several landmark cases right here in New York have rewarded victims with millions in compensation. Your case may also help bring needed reforms in addition to alleviating the pain and suffering you’ve experienced, as well as possible lost career advancement. Contact an experienced New York attorney today to receive the help you deserve for the sexual harassment you’ve faced.