Guide to Reporting
Guide to Reporting
Your employer is now required to establish a sexual harassment policy that meets minimum standards, and to provide a complaint form for their employees.
The Department of Labor, in consultation with the Division of Human Rights, has provided with a model policy and complaint form to adopt or use as a guide in creating their own materials. Therefore, your employer's own policy and complaint form may look different than the models below, but it must meet minimum standards.
Employers must provide each employee with a copy of their policy in writing.
Sexual Harassment Prevention Worker Toolkit
Sexual Harassment is a form of discrimination. If you feel you have been discriminated against you can contact the Division of Human Rights. If a complaint is filed, the Division of Human Rights will investigate and may present the case in a public hearing.
The following organizations provide resources and services related to sexual harassment and discrimination. This list is not a comprehensive list of New York organizations who provide resources and services related to sexual harassment and discrimination:
- A Better Balance's free, legal helpline offers confidential information to workers about workplace rights, including sexual harassment, pregnancy discrimination, breastfeeding and work-family issues. Contact them at (212) 430-5982 or [email protected].
- NOW NYC Helpline offers referrals for callers needing help with employment discrimination, divorce and custody, financial empowerment, intimate partner violence, and sexual assault. Contact them at http://nownyc.org/service-fund/get-help/ or (212) 627-9895
- New York State Bar Association Lawyer Referral and Information Service at www.nysba.org or (800) 342-3661
- www.LawHelpNY.org: Legal information for New Yorkers who cannot afford an attorney.
- Legal Momentum Equality Works Program: Litigation against employers who have maintained or practiced discrimination. Contact at www.legalmomentum.org or (212) 925-6635
- City Bar Justice Center: www.citybarjusticecenter.org or (212) 626-7373 or 7383
- Lambda Legal: www.lambdalegal.org or (866) 542-8336
Q1. I think I’ve been sexually harassed. What should I do?
A1. If you believe that you have been sexually harassed, you should report the conduct to your employer, temporary agency, or placement agency. If your employer is your harasser, or you do not trust how your employer will react, you may contact the New York State Division of Human Rights (NYS DHR). NYS DHR can take complaints and investigate.
At the same time, or after you file a complaint with your employer, you may also file a complaint with NYS DHR. Please note: a complaint of sexual harassment must be filed with NYS DHR within three years of the alleged discriminatory act. Complaints of any other form of discrimination must be filed within one year of the most recent incident. Certain behaviors, including physical assault or rape, are criminal and those wishing to pursue criminal charges should contact the local police.
Q2. How can I file a complaint with the New York State Division of Human Rights (NYS DHR)?
A2. There are several ways to file a complaint with NYS DHR:
- You can call 1-888-392-3644
- You can visit a Division of Human Right office and file a complaint in person: www.dhr.ny.gov/contact-us
Please also review the step-by-step guide in the worker handbook available here www.ny.gov/programs/combating-sexual-harassment-workplace. For more information on how to file a complaint with NYS DHR, visit www.dhr.ny.gov/complaint.
Q3. Can my employer retaliate against me if I complain?
A3. New York State has a Human Rights Law which prohibits retaliation for making an internal complaint to your employer, or for filing a complaint with NYS DHR. If you feel you are being retaliated against, you should contact NYS DHR and file a complaint.
Q4. Is my employer covered by the Human Rights Law?
A4. Yes. The Human Rights Law requires ALL employers in New York State, regardless of the number of employees, to provide a workplace free from sexual harassment.
Q5. How serious does the harassment have to be before I can file a complaint?
A5. New York State no longer requires harassment be severe or pervasive before it is considered illegal. Harassment or discrimination is anything more than “petty slights or trivial inconveniences.” Every instance of harassment is unique to those experiencing it, and there is no single boundary between petty slights and harassing behavior. Generally, any behavior where a worker is treated worse because of their gender is gender discrimination. All workers making a complaint in good faith should do so. It is not your job to know if your treatment is unlawful. An investigation will determine that.
Q6. I’m not sure if I experienced harassment and would like to talk to a lawyer about my rights and next steps. Does New York State provide any legal resources?
A6. Yes. NYS DHR has a hotline, 1-800-HARASS-3. This hotline can both provide information regarding filing a sexual harassment complaint as well as provide you with a referral to a volunteer attorney experienced in sexual harassment matters who can provide you with limited free assistance and counsel over the phone.
Q7. I am a server in a restaurant and was harassed by a customer. Is there anything I can do?
A7. Harassment by a third-party, including customers, clients, constituents, or any other individual being served by an employee, is covered under the New York State Human Rights Law. Any employee experiencing harassment by a third-party can report the behavior to their manager. Any manager witnessing harassment by a third-party is obligated to accommodate the needs of their employee, including reassigning the employee away from the harassing customer or requesting the customer leave. An employee can also to make a complaint to a government agency, such as NYS DHR or the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) if their employer did not act or if they do not trust their employer to act.
Q8. I am an employee at a small business where my employer is also my manager and my harasser. The business does not have a separate HR department or individual to report harassment to. What should I do?
A8. For any employee that does not feel safe to report harassing behavior at work, including those that do not trust management to take it seriously or those that work in a small company without a separate individual to report to, NYS DHR and EEOC are available options, as well as some local government agencies, including the New York City Commission on Human Rights. Workers may file complaints with any of these state, federal, or (where applicable) local government agencies.
Q9. I live in another state but work for a New York State employer. Am I protected by the Human Rights Law?
A9. It depends on your situation. The following are some of the possible scenarios:
- If you live in another state but travel to New York State for all or many of your workdays, you are covered by the Human Rights Law.
- If you live in another state, and work entirely or mostly remotely, then your worksite is in your home state, and you are not covered by the Human Rights Law for harassment or discrimination you experience while you are not in New York. You can, however, file a complaint with the EEOC under federal law.
- If you live in another state, and work entirely or mostly remotely, you are covered by the Human Rights Law if you experience harassment while you are physically present in New York, such as when you attend a meeting, training, or for any reason are working in New York.
Q10. I live in New York, but I work for an employer who is not located in New York State. Am I protected by the Human Rights Law?
A10. It depends on your situation.
- If you travel to another state for all or many of your workdays, the location of your job is outside New York State, and you most likely are not covered by the Human Rights Law. If your employer was incorporated under the laws of New York State, you are covered by the Human Rights Law. If your out-of-state employer is a non-resident person or a corporation NOT incorporated under the laws of New York State, you cannot obtain relief under the Human Rights Law. You can, however, file a complaint with the EEOC under federal law.
- If you live and work remotely in New York State for an out-of-state employer, and your employer does business in New York, you are covered by the Human Rights Law.
- If you live in New York and work remotely for an out-of-state employer, and your employer does not do any business in New York State, then you cannot obtain relief under the Human Rights Law. You can, however, file a complaint with the EEOC under federal law.
Q11. My employer did not provide me with a sexual harassment prevention policy when I was hired. I have been with the organization over a year and have not received a training. What can I do?
A11. If your employer is not in compliance with the New York State Law requiring all employers to have a sexual harassment prevention policy, to provide this policy to employees, and to provide training on an annual basis, you can file a complaint with the New York State Department of Labor (NYSDOL). NYSDOL can contact your employer and educate them on the requirements of the law.