NYC Sexual Harassment Terms Explained

Confused about the laws surrounding sexual harassment in New York City? You are not alone. Legal terminology is very specific and definitions are not always obvious. When you start a sexual harassment claim, many terms might be thrown around that you are unfamiliar with.

The Manhattan attorneys at the Derek Smith Law Group want you to be more comfortable with terms such as:

  • Unwelcome – unwelcome means unwanted. If someone’s conduct is offensive to you, let them know it is unwelcome. Even if you don’t specifically say ‘no,’ however, you still might be able to make a case in court is the behavior was unwanted.
  • Severe – to be considered ‘harassment,’ the conduct must be either ‘severe’ or ‘pervasive.’ In most cases, a single incident of harassment does not meet the legal standard, unless it is ‘severe,’ such as rape or assault.
  • Pervasive – harassment that is less severe but happens frequently or persists over time may be “pervasive,” meaning many incidents of harassment have occurred and is affecting your work environment.
  • Sexual nature – sexual harassment includes conduct of a ‘sexual nature,’ which could include physical, verbal, written, nonverbal or visual behaviors which are sexually-based.
  • EEOC – Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is the government agency which investigates workplace harassment and discrimination claims.
  • Quid pro quo – “something for something” or “this for that,” this is a type of sexual harassment in which you faced a positive or negative employment action for conceding to or refusing sexual advances.
  • Hostile work environment – another type of sexual harassment which creates an intimidating and offensive work environment.

Unfortunately, sexual harassment can be an especially gray area of law. What is acceptable to one person may be completely out of the question for another. All of the above terms are used in legal proceedings, but can be somewhat subjective. With the right NYC lawyer on your side, you can make a convincing argument in your favor to the opposing party, the EEOC, a judge, jury or any other involved parties.

The lawyers at Derek Smith Law Group, PLLC handles a multitude of cases that involve sexual harassment in Manhattan and the greater New York City area. For further information, please feel free to call us at 212-587-0760 or toll-free at 877.469.5297 or email at

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