If you believe you or a co-worker has been a victim of harassment please read the following:

What is the definition of sexual harassment?

According to the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), “[u]nwelcome 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.” See 29 C.F.R § 1604.11(a)

Both victim and the harasser can be either a woman or a man, and the victim and harasser can be the same sex.

The following document from the United Nations offers additional information and specific examples of conduct that may constitute sexual harassment.

Is sexual harassment illegal?

According to the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, “it is unlawful to harass a person (an applicant or employee) because of that person’s sex. Harassment can include “sexual harassment” or unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical harassment of a sexual nature.

This behavior is illegal when it is so frequent or severe that it creates a hostile work environment and causes an adverse employment decision (such as the victim being fired, demoted, moved to another location or so effected that they can no longer come to work).”

The standard for what constitutes illegal sexual harassment is less demanding under New York City’s Human Rights Law than under federal law. The Commissioner and Chairwoman of the New York City Commission on Human Rights has explained that under NYC law

[s]exual harassment need not be ‘severe or pervasive’ to constitute a violation of the law, but instead must simply constitute more than ‘petty slights and trivial inconveniences.

In reality, this means that any unwanted sexual behavior, including sexual comments or jokes, gestures, touching, texts or emails that create a hostile or offensive work environment, in unlawful in New York City.

Carmelyn P. Malalis, Sexual Harassment in New York, Letter, The New York Times (Dec. 13, 2017)

More information can be found here:

Are there other forms of harassment that are not sexual harassment?

A Hostile Work Environment can be created by other types of harassment, as well as sexual harassment.

In General, a Hostile Work Environment is a work environment permeated with discriminatory intimidation, ridicule and/or insult that is sufficiently severe or pervasive that it creates an abusive working environment that affects the victim’s ability to perform his/her job.

Most importantly for behavior to legally qualify as Hostile, the behavior must have a discriminatory element.

Some examples behavior, other than sexual harassment, that can create a Hostile Work Environment are:

  • “Joking” about an employee’s age, race, gender, religion, disability, culture, ethnicity, etc.
  • Discriminatory language and/or treatment (including nicknames and stereotyping).
  • Discriminatory gestures.
  • Displaying racist, or otherwise discriminatory, drawings, or posters that might be offensive to a particular group.

If you are experiencing this type of hostile behavior, you can address it in the same way that you would sexual harassment – by reporting it to the appropriate person and, if nothing is done, by filing a claim with the EEOC, New York State Division of Human Rights or the Law Enforcement Bureau of the New York City Commission on Human Rights.

Is my employer responsible for ensuring a safe work environment?

Again, from the EEOC:

“[a]n employer is always responsible for harassment by a supervisor that culminated in a tangible employment action. If the harassment did not lead to a tangible employment action, the employer is liable unless it proves that: 1) it exercised reasonable care to prevent and promptly correct any harassment; and 2) the employee unreasonably failed to complain to management or to avoid harm otherwise

A tangible employment action” means a significant change in employment status. Examples include hiring, firing, promotion, demotion, undesirable reassignment, a decision causing a significant change in benefits, compensation decisions, and work assignment.”


This website has a step-by-step procedure and FAQs:

What should my employer be doing to ensure a safe work environment?

They should have a clear policy on harassment and discrimination, detailing complaint mechanisms and grievance procedures, and this policy should be accessible to everyone.

For example, here are NY State’s official guidelines.

Can my employer retaliate against me if I report sexual harassment?

The EEOC says “[i]t is also unlawful to retaliate against an individual for opposing employment practices that discriminate based on sex or for filing a discrimination charge, testifying, or participating in any way in an investigation, proceeding, or litigation under Title VII.”

What can my union or guild do for me?

Your union or guild should also have a policy in place in their handbook. The limitations of unions and guilds are usually that they can only assist if both parties are members of the same union or guild, and the assistance they can offer is a grievance claim process that might not be the ideal solution for the parties in question. In any case, please do reach out if you are a member and having a work-related problem. Unions and guilds are stepping up and making meaningful changes in this regard at this moment.

Are there any examples of codes of conduct I can suggest to my group or company?


Vicky Featherstone at the Royal Court put together a Code of Behaviour:

And here’s what their policy on Bullying and Harassment looks like:

The pioneering Chicago organization, Not In Our House, is an invaluable resource for ideas as well. Their website is, which has links to their document, Chicago Theatre Standards, and other sample agreements.

Here’s a sample template for a first rehearsal speech/callboard posting for off-Broadway companies, which may be useful as a beginning:

We are committed to providing you with a working environment that is safe and free from sexual harassment. Sexual harassment in the workplace is against the law and we assure you that it will not be tolerated at our theater. This includes unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature that interferes with your work or creates an intimidating, hostile, or abusive work environment.

If you experience sexual harassment, please contact (NAME) in our Human Resources department, or reach out to your Actor’s Equity Deputy or business representative. Equity recently trained their business reps to address sexual harassment complaints and they are ready to help you. The Actor’s Fund also provides support to folks working on this production in any capacity.

Contact numbers will be posted in your rehearsal room, along with the sexual harassment policies for New York State. If you have further questions, please do not hesitate to ask. We believe that open and supportive communication about this issue is crucial to your health and the health of the American Theater.”

ACTOR’S FUND: 212.221.7300. Lillian Gallina, supervisor of the Entertainment Assistance Program, is leading the charge on this issue.

What can I do as an employer to prevent sexual harassment?

Have the highest ranking figure make a speech to the entire company on day one. Use the above template if it helps. Make it clear that sexual harassment is not condoned, and clearly identify the first person a complainant should contact.

If you don’t have a policy, make one. If you don’t have a complaint or grievance procedure, build one. Accountability and transparency are key.

What can I do as an individual if I’m unsure if what I’m experiencing should be reported?

Document EVERYTHING. This is the best thing you can do, period.

Consider speaking up in the moment if it feels safe. A useful guideline is “say what you see, say how you feel, say what you want, and walk away (keep yourself safe).” An example would be “You just made a comment about my body, I didn’t like that, don’t do that again.” And the most important part, leave that encounter. Do not continue a conversation. If that means waiting until you can exit, do that. Stay safe.

Addressing the issue directly is your best first line of defense. If that doesn’t resolve the problem, one option may be mediation. A pilot pro bono mediation program has been set up for those in the New York theater community who are experiencing sexual harassment. More information about the pilot program is available here. Mediation can also be used by a third-party if the victim feels too uncomfortable or by artistic directors and others in positions of authority who feel unequipped to handle a given scenario.

Also, if your employer has not posted their policy or guidelines, and has not made a first rehearsal speech or something similar, ask why not. Ask to see the employer’s sexual harassment policy. You are within your rights.

What can I do if I see something happening, but the victim doesn't want to report?

If you witness sexual harassment and therefore experience a hostile workplace, you are also being victimized by the behavior, even indirectly.

You have every right to follow the guidance provided above. You can also do it by request of the victim.