Sexual Harassment in New York: Plaintiff Can Sue Even Small Employers
New York Employment Dissemination attorney Alena Shautsova
Discrimination based on sex is prohibited nationwide, but not in every state a victim may sue a small employer. In fact, a victim may bring a Federal lawsuit only against an employer with 15 and more employees.
In New York, until January 19, 2016, a victim of sexual harassment could not complaint against an employer with fewer than 4 employees. New York State has changed that. Starting from January 19, 2016, a victim of sexual harassment can bring a complaint and/or sue an employer of any size. All domestic workers are protected from sexual harassment and harassment based on gender, race religion or national origin, regardless of the number of other employees (§ 296-b). Unpaid interns are protected from workplace discrimination, including sex discrimination and sexual harassment (§ 296-c).
In addition, for the actions filed on or after January 19, 2016, a prevailing party in a sex discrimination case will be entitled to attorney’s fees. Previously, the New York State Law did not provide for an award of attorney’s fees to plaintiffs, and it made it harder for victims of harassment to find counsel who often would have to work on a contingency basis.
In practice, it means that no individual has to tolerate sexual harassment at work and every individual now can complain about their employer and file a lawsuit against such an employer.
It is important to know that a worker’s Immigration status is irrelevant in Employment Discrimination cases, as well as worker’s payment or non-payment of taxes on the monies earned. As such, any worker who believes that he/she became a victim of sex discrimination resulted in failure to hire, termination, unequal pay, unequal terms and conditions of work, or other job discrimination, and in all cases of workplace sexual harassment has an ability to recover attorney’s fees if prevails in his/her case. For other than sexual harassment claims, a worker still has to prove that an employer has at least 4 employees.