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Hostile Work Environment

New York City Lawyers Protecting the Rights of Employees

Hostile work environments are actionable when they are created by harassment based on an employee’s protected characteristics. Most often, hostile work environment claims arise out of harassment based on sex, sexual orientation, religion, race, national origin, or disability. Work environments are considered hostile work environments when the harassment is so severe that it alters the terms and conditions of employment or results in an adverse employment decision. If you are subject to a hostile work environment, you should consult the New York City hostile work environment lawyers at Gerstman Schwartz to find out more about your options.

When a Hostile Work Environment Develops

Work environments in which an employee faces daily or severe harassment can be unbearable. Often, employees subjected to a hostile work environment become uncomfortable going to work or may even be frightened to go to work. You may be scared of your harassers.

Hostile work environments involve conduct that happens in the context of actual work. They are not based on adverse employment decisions like a failure to hire or failure to promote. The claim arises because the employee faces bullying, insults, unwelcome physical gestures, touching, or even assault due to their membership in a protected group. For example, if you are assaulted by your supervisor because of your national origin, this may be severe enough to constitute a hostile work environment. For another example, if your coworkers repeatedly play pranks on you and insult you on a daily basis because you are Muslim, and your employer tells you to deal with it when you complain, you should promptly contact a hostile work environment attorney in New York City or Long Island.

You should notify your employer of the hostile work environment. If your employer acts appropriately to investigate and take remedial steps, you may not have a claim to pursue. Often, hostile work environment lawsuits are brought because an employer does not investigate, or the employer has not put in place procedures to handle investigations.

Federal Laws

Federal, state, and local laws prohibit hostile work environments based on protected characteristics. There are multiple anti-discrimination federal laws, and each protects particular characteristics. You may have a claim under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 if your employer has at least 15 employees, and the hostile work environment harassment is directed at you because of your protected characteristic. For example, if you work for a national corporation, and your coworkers and supervisor keep sexually harassing you by sending you pornography and making sexually charged jokes, this is a form of sex discrimination, and you may be able to seek recourse under Title VII. Most of the federal laws are enforced by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), and you must file a charge with the EEOC as a prerequisite to bringing a lawsuit in federal court. There are caps on compensatory and punitive damages when a claim arises under the laws enforced by the EEOC.

New York State Human Rights Law

The New York State Human Rights Law also protects workers against hostile work environment harassment. It protects more characteristics than does federal law, and it covers employers with at least four employees. A New York City hostile work environment attorney may be able to help you bring a harassment claim against anybody responsible for creating a hostile work environment. A hostile work environment claim is more readily shown if there are both offensive remarks and unwelcome physical acts.

While an employee must file a charge with the EEOC within 300 days of the alleged discrimination, harassment, or retaliation, the New York State Human Rights Law gives you three years to file a lawsuit (as does the city law). Even with this time, it is wise to file immediately to preserve your proof and any witnesses to the harassment.

New York City Human Rights Law

The New York City Human Rights Law is widely considered one of the most progressive and protective civil rights laws in the country. A workplace incident may create a hostile work environment under the New York City Human Rights Law even if it was not severe or pervasive enough under the federal or state law standards. All that the employee needs to show is that he or she was treated less favorably than other workers because of a characteristic protected under the city law.

Consult a Skillful Hostile Work Environment Lawyer in New York City

When you go to work, you should be treated with dignity and respect. Sometimes coworkers or supervisors harass employees because of some aspect of their identity. Unfortunately, some employers do not respond appropriately to complaints of harassment. Going to work when a hostile work environment has been created can be demoralizing. If you are facing a hostile work environment on the job in New York City or on Long Island, you should call the skillful employment litigators at Gerstman Schwartz at (212) 227-7070 or contact us online.

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