In the booming cosmopolitan environment of New York City, one of the greatest threats to the welfare and safety of workers is prejudice based on race, gender, age, sexual orientation, as well as other perceived differences. When prejudice and discrimination turn into sexual harassment and a hostile work environment, several federal and state laws protect victims and enable them to file claims against harassers. A New York City hostile work environment lawyer knows the gritty details that are associated and can help in the case of discrimination or harassment in the office.
Legal Protections Against Hostile Workplaces in NYC
Title VII Hostile Work Environment
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 is a well-known law that prohibits employment discrimination based on sex, religion, color, race, and national origin. This typically applies to employers with at least 15 employees and includes federal governments, public colleges, employment agencies, and labor organizations.
NYC Human Rights Law Hostile Work Environment
The NYC Human Rights Law of the City Commission on Human Rights enforces rules in addition to Title VII. Both organizations have laws regarding hostile work environment sexual harassment in New York City and throughout the state. Working with a hostile work environment lawyer can help you to navigate the laws and protections.
Anyone who claims hostile work environment harassment in New York City has the right to a cause of action in court for damages. The commission will investigate your claim on its own and has the power to determine whether the harasser has committed an unlawful practice. Amendments to the NYC Human Rights Law continue to remove language regarding sexual orientation and give the commission the authority to award attorney’s fees. All businesses and employers with NYC operations must comply with Title VII and the NYC Human Rights Laws or risk a lawsuit.
Other Legal Protections Against Toxic Work Environments
In addition to the protections offered by Title VII and the NYC Human Rights Law, new legislation was put into effect in 2019, expanding the scope of protections for victims of sexual harassment. The New York State Human Rights Law, which applies to all NY employers, strengthened victims’ rights in the following ways:
- Harassment that subjects an individual to inferior conditions or privileges of employment is illegal;
- Harassment need not be severe or pervasive to hold the employer liable;
- Identifying more than one person who received similarly unfavorable or abusive treatment is not necessary to establish liability; and
- The complainant is not required to file an initial complaint with their employer.
Quid Pro Quo Vs. Hostile Work Environment
To establish a hostile work environment claim in New York City, you should first know which type of harassment you’re a victim of: quid pro quo or hostile workplace environment. Quid pro quo sexual harassment, or “tangible employment action,” includes unwelcome sexual conduct. In a quid pro quo sexual harassment claim, you must establish that your harasser (often a supervisor-employee harassment scenario) expressed or implied that you would receive job-related benefits in return for sexual favors. You don’t need to prove a pattern of harassment for this type of lawsuit.
Examples of Quid Pro Quo Harassment
Quid pro quo harassment is typically tied to some kind of threat to your job. For example, your boss might say that he’ll promote you if you go on a date with him, or that he’ll give you a bad performance review if you don’t. Examples of quid pro quo harassment include:
- Negative reviews;
- Reduction in pay or benefits;
- Unfavorable shift assignments; or
- Offering favorable terms, such as promotion, positive review, or an increase in pay, in exchange for sexual favors.
Examples of Hostile Work Environment Harassment
Hostile work environment harassment, on the other hand, isn’t necessarily quid pro quo. Your job doesn’t have to be threatened if the behavior is so inappropriate that it creates an abusive work environment. Examples of such behaviors include:
- Inappropriate and unwanted touch;
- Making jokes or comments of a sexual nature;
- Making remarks about an employee’s appearance that are sexual in nature;
- Physically cornering an employee; or
- Displaying sexually inappropriate materials.
Hostile work environment is further differentiated from quid pro quo harassment in that it doesn’t have to be directed at only one employee. If someone engages in persistent and pervasive behaviors that create an abusive or otherwise hostile work environment for the target of this behavior, or anyone else in the workplace, there may be a hostile work environment claim against the employer or the individual engaged in bad behavior.
What Constitutes a Hostile Work Environment in NYC?
For a hostile work environment harassment claim, a victim must establish that multiple instances of harassment created an offensive, intimidating, or hostile work environment. Therefore, the plaintiff must establish three things to succeed with this type of claim:
- The employee is a member of a protected class. This can include anyone affected by the conduct, not just the person at whom the harasser directed the conduct.
- The employee was subject to unwelcome sexual or sex-based conduct in the workplace. This is a broad definition of sexual harassment and can include a range of inappropriate or unwanted words, behaviors, or actions.
- The unwelcome conduct was gender-based. For example, this can encompass hostile comments about women or men as a group.
A hostile work environment is one in which someone at work makes doing your job impossible through his or her actions, behaviors, and words (can be in the form of verbal abuse or inappropriate sexual comments). The behavior must be discriminatory in nature, and typically must happen more than once. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission monitors discrimination and hostile work environments and can help victims by investigating the case. However, hiring a New York City hostile work environment lawyer can speed the process along.
What To Do If You Are Subject to a Hostile Workplace in NYC
The best thing you can do if you believe that a supervisor’s or co-worker’s actions are inappropriate is to begin gathering evidence of the offensive behavior. Having solid evidence is very important when proving a hostile work environment claim. Take detailed notes about any incidents that occur, including date and time, and if any witnesses were present. When there is physical evidence in the form of an email, voice message, or handwritten note, for example, keep the evidence safe. It’s also a good idea to familiarize yourself with company policies on sexual harassment, and whether there is a specific process for reporting this type of behavior.
You should also call an experienced NYC hostile work environment attorney as soon as possible. Your attorney can help you evaluate the situation to determine if you have a valid case, and work with you to formulate the most appropriate legal strategy.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is Proof Of Hostile Work Environment in NYC?
If a co-worker or supervisor is creating an abusive work environment, it is critical to gather as much evidence as possible to support this claim. Examples of evidence of a hostile work environment include:
- Voice messages;
- Handwritten Notes;
- Witness statements;
- Pictures you take of notes written on a white board, inappropriate pictures or cartoons displayed by a supervisor or co-worker, or any other physical evidence that you cannot safely gather; and
- Sudden and unwarranted changes in employment patterns, such as a demotion or unfavorable shift assignment, given without cause.
Can You Sue For A Hostile Work Environment?
Yes. In NYC, workers have multiple federal, state, and local protections against hostile work environments. An experienced New York employment law attorney can help you determine how to proceed.
What Behaviors Are Considered Criteria For a Hostile Work Environment?
In order to have a valid hostile work environment claim, the offensive behavior must be based on one of the following protected categories:
- National origin
- Sexual orientation
Next you must be able to show that the conduct was severe and pervasive enough to constitute abuse. Some examples of behaviors that may create a hostile workplace include:
- Unwelcome touching;
- Remarks of a sexual nature;
- Invading someone’s personal space;
- Displaying or sharing pornographic images; and
- Making inappropriate comments about a person’s appearance.
Experienced Legal Representation, New York City Hostile Work Environment Lawyer
A hostile work environment in New York City can affect your personal and business life. It can make you dread or fear going to work as well as have mental and emotional repercussions. Sexual harassment in the workplace ruins lives and makes victims feel trapped—too afraid to speak up yet unable to quit their jobs. When you’re stuck in a hostile work environment situation, come to Joseph & Norinsberg LLC, the New York City experienced employment attorneys. Contact us today for a free initial consultation.