Enduring sexual harassment at work not only affects your professional performance, it has a detrimental impact on your personal life and emotional well-being. That’s why New York City has some of the most pro-employee harassment laws on the books — these Administrative Codes are designed to offer maximum protection for victims, much more so than state and federal statutes.
At the federal level, victims of workplace harassment must establish that the conduct at issue was “severe or pervasive” to bring about a legal claim. ‘Pervasive’ conduct may mean the behavior happened repeatedly, such as a co-worker made lewd comments to you many times, even after you asked him or her to stop. To be constituted as severe, the conduct might have only happened once, but the act was sufficiently traumatic. For example if your boss exposed himself to you, this could be classified as ‘severe.’
However, New York City courts rejected the federal rules, stating the “severe or pervasive” standard does not offer an incentive for creating a “zero-tolerance” workplace policy against demeaning behavior towards members of a protected class. Women are considered members of a protected class.
In the landmark case Williams v. New York City Housing Authority, the New York City court decided a victimized employee could file a sexual harassment claim if the conduct rose above what a reasonable person would consider ‘petty slights and trivial inconveniences.’ You do not have to meet the “severe or pervasive” standard under City Human Rights Laws – rather, you simply must prove you were treated less well than other employees because of your gender.
Additionally, if you brought about a sexual harassment claim in City court, your employer would have to prove the harassment was a “petty slight” or “trivial inconvenience” to have the case dismissed. Being harassed is distressing enough. To have the law on your side is the small bright spot in an otherwise overwhelming upsetting situation.