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Hostile Work Environment Sexual Harassment

New York Attorneys Asserting the Rights of Employees

People should be able to work with confidence that they will not be subjected to unwanted sexual advances. Sadly, however, many employees are subjected to sexual harassment, such as lewd comments and requests for sexual favors in the workplace. When sexual harassment occurs regularly, it can create a hostile work environment, which often makes going to work unbearable. If you were subjected to hostile work environment sexual harassment, you may be able to pursue claims against your employer, and it is prudent to talk to a lawyer. The skillful New York sexual harassment attorneys at Gerstman Schwartz can assess the circumstances surrounding your situation and advise you on your next steps.

Hostile Work Environment Sexual Harassment

A broad range of behavior may constitute sexual harassment. For example, comments of a sexual nature or unwelcome physical contact may be considered sexual harassment. Additionally, displaying or sharing sexually explicit emails or images may be deemed harassing behavior. Sexual harassment does not necessarily need to express desire, and negative comments regarding a person’s sex can constitute harassment as well. When this type of behavior happens repeatedly, it can create a hostile work environment. Additionally, in some instances, a single incident can cause a workplace to become hostile if the incident is sufficiently severe. Hostile work environments detrimentally affect people’s ability to work and can cause employees to suffer emotional distress.

Proving That Sexual Harassment Created a Hostile Work Environment

Sexual harassment of any kind is prohibited by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII), the New York State Human Rights Law (NYSHRL), and the New York City Human Rights Law (NYCHRL). Thus, people subjected to hostile work environments as a result of sexual harassment are often able to recover damages via civil lawsuits. The burden of proof imposed on a plaintiff asserting such claims depends on the statute that the defendant allegedly violated.

For example, a plaintiff pursuing claims under Title VII must demonstrate that the defendant engaged in acts of sexual harassment that resulted in a work environment that a reasonable individual would find to be hostile or abusive. The plaintiff also needs to establish that he or she subjectively perceived the environment as hostile due to the sexual harassment. Generally, the plaintiff is required to demonstrate that the harassment was pervasive or severe, and withstanding the environment became a condition of employment.

A plaintiff faces a lesser burden of proof under the NYSHRL. A plaintiff need not demonstrate pervasive or severe acts that were so prevalent and damaging that they altered the conditions of the plaintiff’s employment. Instead, pursuant to recent changes to the NYSHRL, a plaintiff only must show that he or she faced inferior conditions, privileges, or terms of employment because of the harassment.

The NYCHRL grants even broader protections than the NYSHRL. A plaintiff asserting a claim that a defendant created a hostile work environment in violation of the NYCHRL only needs to show treatment that was less favorable than other workers and prove that the adverse treatment was caused by the harassment. The behavior in question must go beyond what a reasonable individual would consider a minor inconvenience.

A plaintiff who successfully proves hostile work environment sexual harassment may be able to recover compensatory damages. Punitive damages may be available in some cases if the defendant’s behavior was particularly offensive.

Explore Your Options With a Seasoned New York Attorney

Sexual harassment can alter a person’s ability to work, and people exposed to a hostile work environment can often recover damages via a civil lawsuit. At Gerstman Schwartz, our New York attorneys are adept at helping employees harmed by sexual harassment fight to protect their interests. We help victims of sexual harassment in New York City and Nassau and Suffolk Counties. You can reach us to set up a confidential meeting via our form online or by calling us at our New York City office at (212) 227-7070 or our Garden City office at (516) 880-8170.

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