Sexual harassment is among the most pervasive problems in the workplace. While, under the law, sexual harassment typically takes place in a workplace setting that is not necessarily always the case. Sexual harassment can take place outside of the confines of the workplace and in connection with someone who is seeking employment. Sexual assault, while also a crime, can be addressed in the civil court system and does not require an employment relationship.
Unfortunately, the prevalence of sexual harassment and sexual assault cases has only recently started to become more recognized as a large-scale societal problem. Following allegations of sexual harassment, assault and abuse by numerous high-profile men across numerous industries, women across the globe have banded together under the #MeToo movement and given a strong voice against this conduct – and the cloak of silence surrounding it – that is far overdue.
Wigdor LLP has been at the forefront of this issue representing victims of sexual harassment and sexual assault in many, if not most, of the cases that have been receiving wide-spread media attention. In addition, Wigdor LLP has represented and currently represents numerous other victims of sexual harassment and sexual assault against high-profile men that have remained confidential.
Throughout Wigdor LLP’s history, we have represented hundreds of sexual harassment and sexual assault victims to help them achieve justice and accountability. Sexual harassment and sexual assault affects all people regardless of education, industry or income-level. Wigdor LLP has successfully represented sexual harassment and assault victims at all levels, including c-suite executives of Fortune 100 companies, directors at publicly traded companies, professionals across virtually all industries, minimum wage earners and interns. Many of our largest settlements and verdicts have come from sexual harassment cases.
Sexual Harassment in the Media
What is Sexual Harassment?
Although the term “sexual harassment” is used quite often, it is not always well understood. Sexual harassment is a form of gender discrimination, and it occurs in all industries and at all levels of seniority.
Sexual harassment can generally be categorized into two forms. The first is called “quid pro quo” which is Latin for “this for that.” Quite literally, it means if a supervisor asks, requires, suggests or even implies that you need to provide sexual favors in exchange for job benefits (whether it’s working conditions, pay or any other type of promise). “Quid pro quo” sexual harassment is unlawful. In fact, even if individuals are involved in a relationship or activities that are consensual to some degree, a supervisor may still be engaging in unlawful sexual harassment. “Quid pro quo” sexual harassment, even if an individual has willingly participated in certain categories of behavior, does not mean the individual has consented to a hostile work environment and does not mean such individual’s rights have not been violated.
The other type of sexual harassment is generally called “hostile work environment.” This type of sexual harassment occurs when a supervisor or co-worker initiates unwelcome sexual conduct, advances, discussions, jokes, and/or verbal or physical harassment. Sexual harassment cases are often proved through documents, emails, instant messaging, video, telephone voice mails and the testimony of other employees who are witnesses or were also subjected to similar conduct. However, even in the absence of documentary evidence or witnesses, sexual harassment cases can – and very often are – established solely through a victim’s own testimony about the conduct at issue. As with “quid pro quo” sexual harassment, even if an individual has willingly participated in certain categories of behavior, it does not mean the individual has consented to a hostile work environment and does not mean such individual’s rights have not been violated. If you think you may have been subject to “hostile work environment” sexual harassment, you should speak with an attorney who can advise you of your rights.
Sexual harassment causes significant harm. This harm can come in the form of monetary loss; for instance, if an individual is denied promotions, bonuses, job opportunities or is terminated under circumstances arising from sexual harassment. In fact, an individual can even claim monetary losses if she voluntarily resigns from work because the sexual harassment was so egregious. Sexual harassment also causes emotional harm, which can have a severe impact on an individual’s health and well-being both in the present and the future. Very often, victims of sexual harassment feel the need to get professional mental health treatment. It is important to speak to an attorney to better understand your rights and advise you on the proper course of conduct.
It is a sad reality that sexual harassment can sometimes involve violence. A rarely used New York City law known as the Gender Motivated Violence Act (“GMVA”) makes it unlawful to commit an act of violence because of an individual’s gender. While individuals who commit these egregious acts may be criminally prosecuted, the GMVA also permits victims to independently seek civil recovery for these unlawful acts. This law enables victims to potentially recover additional damages that may be available under other laws, including compensatory damages for emotional distress, punitive damages to punish the wrongdoer and payment for attorneys’ fees and expenses. Moreover, the GMVA provides a longer statute of limitations period than other laws that may be at issue.
Few law firms have the experience of Wigdor LLP in this highly specialized area. In fact, Wigdor LLP was one of the first firms to utilize the GMVA in connection with its representation of the hotel maid in the Dominique Strauss-Kahn case. We have also utilized the GMVA in many other matters that have settled privately. If you think you may have been a victim of gender motivated violence – whether inside or outside the workplace – you should speak with an attorney who can advise you of your rights.
Call (212) 257-6800 to speak to an attorney at Wigdor LLP.