Matters Regarding Sexual Harassment, Discrimination and Retaliation
In certain instances, sexual harassment, discrimination or retaliation may constitute violations of the Public Officers Law under JCOPE’s jurisdiction. To report such conduct to JCOPE, call the tip line at 1 (800) 873-8442. Steps to File a Complaint
State employees should report any allegations of harassment, discrimination, or retaliation to their employer. It may also be advisable to consult an attorney who can explain all of the available options. It should be noted that there are deadlines for filing a complaint under each of the laws prohibiting sexual harassment and filing a complaint with JCOPE does not stop or extend the time for you to file a complaint under the law. Ask the agencies listed below about specific procedures and time limits that apply.
New York State Division of Human Rights (DHR)
Victims of sexual harassment can file a complaint with the DHR located within the city or county in which the employee works. A complaint must be filed with the DHR within one year of the last alleged discriminatory act.
Remedies: Like the EEOC, the type of relief varies but may include requiring the employer to cease and desist the unlawful discriminatory practice, to take affirmative action such as hiring, reinstatement, promotion of the complainant, to pay back pay and benefits the person would have received, to pay compensatory damages, and/or to pay attorneys’ fees, expert witness fees, and court costs. The DHR may also require the employer to institute specific policies or training.
DHR has offices throughout the state of New York, in the cities of Albany, Binghamton, Brooklyn, Buffalo, Manhattan, Long Island, Syracuse, Rochester, and Peekskill. Contact their main office in New York City at (718) 741-8400, or write to them at New York State Division of Human Rights, One Fordham Plaza, Bronx New York 10458; or visit their website at www.dhr.ny.gov.
United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC)
The EEOC enforces Federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination which includes sexual harassment. If an employee believes that he/she has been discriminated against at work, he/she can file a “Charge of Discrimination.” A Charge of Discrimination needs to be filed with the EEOC before a person can file a job discrimination lawsuit against his/her employer. To protect an aggrieved person’s identity, the Charge of Discrimination can be filed on the person’s behalf by another individual, organization or agency. Not all employers are covered by the laws that the EEOC enforces and not all employees are protected. It depends on the type of employer, the number of employees the employer has (more than 15 employees), and the type of discrimination alleged. There are also strict time limits for filing a charge. A charge must be filed within 180 days of the incident.
Remedies: The type of relief varies but may include requiring the employer to cease and desist the unlawful discriminatory practice, to take affirmative action such as hiring, reinstatement, promotion of the complainant, to pay back pay and benefits the person would have received, to pay compensatory damages (i.e. out-of-pocket expenses for job search or medical expenses; sufferance of emotional harm or mental anguish), to pay punitive damages to punish an employer who has committed an especially malicious or reckless act of discrimination, and/or to pay attorneys’ fees, expert witness fees, and court costs. There are limits on the amount of damages a person can recover depending on the size of the employer. The EEOC may also require the employer to institute specific policies or training.
The EEOC has district, area, and field offices where complaints can be filed. Contact the EEOC by calling 1-800-669-4000 or visit their website at www.eeoc.gov.
Office of NYS Attorney General Civil Rights Bureau
The Civil Rights Bureau determines whether the employee’s experiences are evidence of a pattern, practice or policy of sexual harassment affecting a significant number of people. The Bureau may then commence an investigation and/or initiate legal action against the employer. NOTE: The Attorney General does not represent the individual making the complaint but the People of the State of New York. Filing a complaint with the Attorney General is not a substitute for bringing a case in court or filing a complaint with the proper agency, and it does not toll any of the filing deadlines or other administrative prerequisites for filing a case in court or with other government agencies.
Contact the Civil Rights Bureau at Civil Right Bureau, New York State Attorney General’s Office, 120 Broadway, New York, NY 10271; by phone (212) 416-8250 or (800) 771-7755; or email at [email protected]
New York State Department of Labor
The Division of Equal Opportunity Development under the New York State Department of Labor, among other duties, ensures there is no discrimination in Labor Department policies and practices and enforces Executive Order No. 19 and the Workforce Investment Act of 1998, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex including sexual harassment. The agency oversees, among other complaints, discrimination and sexual harassment complaints for employees who got their jobs through the NYS Department of Labor program or a service provided by a New York State Career Center. Those who did not get their jobs through these sources, should make their complaints with the EEOC or New York DHR. A complaint must be filed within 180 days of which the discrimination took place.
It has offices located in Albany, Buffalo, and New York City. Contact NYSDOL for the appropriate office to file a complaint at (518) 457-9000.
New York City Commission on Human Rights
The NYC Commission on Human Right is charged with enforcing the New York City Human Rights Law which prohibits sexual harassment in the workplace. Employees that work in New York City may file complaints with the New York City Commission on Human Rights. If there is already filed the same complaint with the EEOC or NYS Division of Human Rights, or in any court, a complaint cannot also be filed with the NYC Commission on Human Rights.
Contact: Law Enforcement Bureau of the NYC Commission on Human Rights, 40 Rector Street, 10th Floor, New York, New York; by phone at 311 or (212) 306-7450; or website at www.nyc.gov/html/cchr/html/home/home.shtml
Filing a Lawsuit in State or Federal Court
An employee may also have the right to file a lawsuit against his/her employer in either state or federal court. Filing in federal court requires that you first file a complaint with the EEOC before bringing a lawsuit. No such requirement applies in state court but there cannot be a complaint before DHR and a lawsuit in state court at the same time.
Contact your local police department
If the harassment involves physical touching, coerced physical confinement or coerced sex acts, the conduct may constitute a crime. Contact your local police department.
Places to find support
Being sexually harassed can be a traumatic experience. There are places that may be able to guide victims.
NOW NYC Helpline - NOW NYC Helpline offers referrals for callers needing help with employment discrimination, divorce and custody, financial empowerment, intimate partner violence, and sexual assault. http://nownyc.org/service-fund/get-help/ or call (212) 627-9895
Legal Support - Your local Legal Bar Association or legal services organization may be able to refer you to other resources or help you find an attorney. Some include:
- New York State Bar Association Lawyer Referral and Information Service. More information is available at www.nysba.org or by phone at (800) 342-3661
- LawHelpNY.org: Legal information for New Yorkers who cannot afford an attorney, more information is available at www.lawhelpny.org
- Legal Momentum Equality Works Program: Litigation against employers who have maintained or practiced discrimination. More information is available at www.legalmomentum.org or by phone at (212) 925-6635.
- City Bar Justice Center, more information is available at www.citybarjusticecenter.org or Referral Service (212) 626-7373, 7383
- Lambda Legal, more information is available at www.lambdalegal.org or by phone at (866) 542-8336