Ayanna Chisholm has worked for years for the New York and New Jersey Port Authority as a toll collector. The variability of hours at the position affords a treasured amount of flexibility for Chisholm and many of the other female workers. The Times reports that based on conversations with many employees, that the women who collect tolls are subjected to a barrage of “come-ons, sexual comments, lecherous stares and crude gestures from male motorists.” Some women reported criminal behavior such as men exposing themselves, grabbing their hands and stroking them.
Despite the stories out there about women covering themselves up, wearing no makeup, putting on headphones in order to endure behavior the likes of which made Chisholm “feel degraded,” few of the women actually file complaints with their employer. One female employee went so far as to gain weight because she thought the lewd comments would cease.
The reasons to adapt instead of report may vary but some workers told the Times that part of it is the “sense of resignation and the service-minded, grin-and-bear-it culture of tollbooth work,” and that there seems to be “a feeling that weathering obscene behavior is part of collecting tolls.”
Sean McBride, a vice president with the International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers, an umbrella organization that represents toll workers across the country indicates that the problem is not unique to New York and that across the nation toll employees are reluctant to report incidents of sexual harassment. The enforcement of anti-discrimination laws might benefit if employees formally report the inappropriate behavior to which they are subjected. There is strength in numbers. When employers realize the depth of the problem, they will hopefully take the necessary steps to eliminate the suffering of their employees. The three main New York-area agencies that employ toll collectors emailed the Times to say they did not tolerate the sexual harassment of their workers. That’s a start.
If you, like the toll workers, feels you are being sexually harassed at your workplace, the experienced and compassionate attorneys at Leeds Brown can help you make your claim and get you the relief and recovery you deserve.
Often, victims of sexual harassment cite fear of retaliation as a reason not to speak up. Concerns over losing one’s job, being reassigned or having a career derailed have a great impact on both women and men. Retaliation is also unlawful under anti-discrimination and harassment laws but it seems the practice is still very much alive and well in many businesses. Employees also cite concerns over the stigma attached to complaining about harassment as well as questions as to whether the employer is truly responsible for the behavior of employees or even clients and vendors.
A recent New York Times article acts as a timely reminder of another reason that some women in particular may not report sexual harassment they experience at work. In a nutshell, a culture of acceptance exists in certain industries and the women who work in these places have been made to think they are supposed to tolerate the harassment as part of the job. The article discussed below, published in 2016, uses women working in New York and New Jersey tollbooths as an example of this issue.
As employment discrimination lawyers who have been practicing for decades in New York City, Long Island and the surrounding metropolitan area, Leeds Brown Law, P.C. understands the need for the legislation to protect workers. Clients come to us with many claims that involve sexual harassment and gender discrimination. While the laws that defend workers from sex discrimination apply equally to men and women, they were passed to ease some of the inequalities and poor treatment many female employees faced in the workplace.
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits employment discrimination based on sex. This prohibition includes sexual harassment. Title VII has an amendment called the Pregnancy Discrimination Act that prohibits discrimination and harassment based on pregnancy. There are laws in New York State and New York City prohibiting the same.
It is possible that the laws deter unlawful behavior in the workplace. When they don’t at least, they provide men and women with ways to assert their rights against retaliation and to recover monetary damages from employers. Still, thousands of claims are filed yearly containing allegations of sexual harassment in the workplace. Co-workers, supervisors, and third-parties continue to harass an overwhelming majority of female employees. As a group, victims of sexual harassment in the workplace recover tens of millions of dollars in monetary damages every year through administrative filings and litigation. Despite the legal recourse available, many victims never report the unlawful conduct.
Leeds Brown Law, P.C. is a full service employment law firm representing clients in the entire New York metropolitan area. If you think you have been the victim of employment discrimination including sexual harassment you can reach our office 24/7 at 1-800-585-4658.
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