Sexual Harassment in the Securities Industry
Sexual harassment in the securities industry, not surprisingly, is as pervasive as it is throughout the modern workplace. Recent social developments have led to less tolerance for these behaviors, many times perpetrated by individuals in positions of authority. It is not a question of if it is happening, but more a question of what can be done about it. We no longer live in a culture where Sexual Harassment should be accepted.
What Do Federal Laws Say About Sexual Harassment?
Sexual harassment is a form of sex discrimination that violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Title VII applies to employers with 15 or more employees, including member brokerage firms supervised by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority. According to the laws designed to protect victims, Harassment on the basis of sex is a violation of section 703 of title VII is defined as:
“Unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature constitute sexual harassment when (1) submission to such conduct is made either explicitly or implicitly a term or condition of an individual’s employment, (2) submission to or rejection of such conduct by an individual is used as the basis for employment decisions affecting such individual, or (3) such conduct has the purpose or effect of unreasonably interfering with an individual’s work performance or creating an intimidating, hostile, or offensive working environment.”
Further interpretations claim, “Sexual harassment can occur in a variety of circumstances, including but not limited to the following:
- The victim as well as the harasser may be a woman or a man. The victim does not have to be of the opposite sex.
- The harasser can be the victim’s supervisor, an agent of the employer, a supervisor in another area, a co-worker, or a non-employee.
- The victim does not have to be the person harassed but could be anyone affected by the offensive conduct.
- Unlawful sexual harassment may occur without economic injury to or discharge of the victim.
- The harasser’s conduct must be unwelcome.
It is helpful for the victim to inform the harasser directly that the conduct is unwelcome and must stop. The victim should use any employer complaint mechanism or grievance system available.”
Protection of Victim Rights
The protection of sexual harassment victim rights should not result in greater exposure to risks of their privacy, reputation and their careers. When in fact these risks many time keep victims from asserting the protection of their rights. Without competent legal representation, the protections afforded to victims may become unrealized. The protection of victim rights should include:
- Protection of Privacy
- Protection of Reputation
- Protection of Career
Any damages that are the result of the wrongful parties, including the harasser and the company involved, to fail to protect these rights become a direct liability owed to the sexual harassment victim.
Leading Reform in Securities Industry Workplace
The securities industry supervises its member brokerage firms through the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) which provides a forum where brokerage firm employees can file claims against employers, in instances where claims of sexual harassment has occurred. Even though FINRA does not mandate that sexual harassment claims unless bound by employment contract or both parties consent, arbitration might be a path to resolution, especially where privacy concerns are paramount. Otherwise, litigation through the court system would be the legal forum of choice.
Klayman & Toskes, P.A. can help you determine whether you have a claim for Sexual Harassment in the brokerage firm where you work. Klayman & Toskes, P.A. has experience in arbitration claims related to employment disputes, we can help you if you have been sexually harassed.