NEW YORK, NY – Amidst the outrage over the Harvey Weinstein allegations women have felt empowered to come forward to take a stand against sexual harassment in the workplace, leading to an influx in sexual harassment cases being filed in Federal, State, and local courts. Derek Smith, Esq., Founding Partner of the Derek Smith Law Group, PLLC, has stated that he’s seen a noticeable increase in calls alleging sexual harassment.
Smith has represented survivors of sexual harassment for over twenty years and has stated that he has never seen such a spike in women “feeling empowered to take a stand, to do something about what happened to them.”
Plaintiff’s firms like the Derek Smith Law Group typically file claims with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) which is a federal agency created by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to handle claims of sexual harassment and employment discrimination. Under Title VII, sexual harassment is a form of sex discrimination, with the basic theory being that an individual is sexually harassed because of that individual’s sex or gender.
Under Title VII, there are two basic forms of sexual harassment, quid pro quo and hostile work environment sexual harassment. Quid pro quo sexual harassment comes from the Latin term, “this for that.” In the context of sexual harassment in employment law, quid pro quo sexual harassment is when a supervisor or co-worker predicates job benefits, such as having a job, on accepting that supervisor or co-workers sexual advances. A hostile work environment within the context of sexual harassment means that an employer’s sexual conduct is so severe and pervasive that a reasonable individual would consider the work environment hostile. Hostile work environment often includes unwanted frequent requests for sex, sexual joking or pornography in the workplace.
In order to bring a federal claim of sexual harassment, one must first file with the EEOC. The first step to filing a federal claim is to ensure that the employer is a qualified employer under Title VII. Under Title VII, a qualified employer must have over fifteen (15) employees. While this number seems low, many small businesses don’t have enough employees to qualify and thus not enough to bring claims of sexual harassment or gender discrimination.
However, despite the stringent fifteen employee threshold, many Cities and States have laws designed to fill the gap for employees of the smaller business who have been the survivors of sexual harassment. For example, under New York City Human Rights Law and New York State Human Rights law, an employee may bring a claim for sex or gender discrimination for companies with as few as four (4) employees. Further, under New York State Human Rights Law an employee may bring a claim of sexual harassment against an employer with as few as one (1) employee. This law was designed to prevent the frequent sexual harassment that Nanny’s and personal assistants face on the daily.
Title VII law is not perfect. A major issue in litigating Title VII claims is the difference between an employer and an independent contractor. Under Title VII, only employees may bring claims against employers for sexual harassment, however, that leaves the independent contractors open to the same type of sexual harassment that employees face. States like New York has recognized the dangers in applying the law only to employers and leaving independent contractors, such as models or performers, outside of Title VII protection. On the heels of Hollywood’s numerous scandals, sparked by Harvey Weinstein and flamed by the #MeToo Twitter campaign, the New York State Legislator is currently voting on a “Model” bill which would protect independent contractors such as models and actresses.
Sexual harassment is every present problem in American workplaces, but it’s only been recent that employees who are the survivors of sexual harassment, both women and men, are willing to come forward as the tide of public opinion turns against predators in power. The New York City sexual harassment attorneys at the Derek Smith Law Group, PLLC have years of experience litigating claims of sexual harassment. Working together with our Philadelphia sexual harassment attorneys, the Derek Smith Law Group has received millions of dollars on behalf of our clients who are the survivors of sexual harassment. If you feel you have been sexually harassed at work, please give our talented attorneys a call at 800-807-2209 for a free consultation.