Hostile Work Environment Lawyers Representing Clients on Long Island
Workplace discrimination and harassment take a heavy toll on an individual’s wellbeing and job performance. When these actions and behaviors occur, a hostile work environment may arise. The ability to work in a safe environment is guaranteed by the law and all employees are legally protected from working in a hostile workplace. Both New York state and federal law provide protections against harassment in the workplace and allow an employee to file a claim when they are in a hostile work environment. It is critical for Long Island employees to understand that a hostile work environment can develop from different forms of harassment. While hostile work environments certain can be created when there is sexual harassment in the workplace, almost any type of harassment can develop into a hostile work environment over time. To learn more about filing a hostile work environment claim, or to have one of our Queens or Long Island hostile work environment lawyers assess your case, you should get in touch with a lawyer at our firm as soon as possible. At Ricotta & Marks, P.C., we are committed to representing employees in a wide variety of hostile work environment claims.
Nobody should have to do their job in a Long Island workplace where they are facing a hostile work environment.
What is a Hostile Work Environment?
A hostile work environment is unlawful, and it results from harassment in the workplace. According to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), harassment is defined as “a form of employment discrimination that violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (ADEA), and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA). The EEOC explains further that harassment is unwelcome conduct based on race, color, religion, sex, disability, or genetic information.
It can be difficult to differentiate between what is normal workplace conduct and what is a hostile work environment. After working for an employer for some time, the lines may become blurred and you may be left unsure whether or not you are experiencing a hostile work environment.
Under Federal and State employment laws, a hostile work environment exists when the behavior within a workplace creates an environment that is uncomfortable or intimidating to work in. This can often happen as a result of discrimination and/or harassment within the workplace.
A hostile work environment can be based on:
- Sex/Sexual Harassment
- Sexual Orientation
- Disability / Accommodations
- Gender or Gender Identity
- And other statutorily protected classes
For more information on discrimination or harassment, view our online resources here. Alternatively, consider contacting Ricotta and Marks, P.C.’s Queens or Long Island hostile work environment lawyers to learn more about your options.
In addition to federal law, the New York State Human Rights Law also protects employees from harassment arising out of unlawful discrimination, and state law provides more protections than does federal law. In addition to the forms of discrimination described above by the EEOC, New York state law also expressly and explicitly prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. Under both federal and state law, sexual harassment is an unlawful form of sex discrimination.
State and Federal Legislation
Several laws at both the federal and state level protect employees from hostile work environments. Federally, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, and the Americans With Disabilities Act all govern hostile work environment cases. On the state level, the New York State Human Rights Law safeguards employees against hostile work environments.
A New York State court case, Alfano v. Costello, 294 F.3d 365, (2nd Cir. 2002), discusses some of the factors that are taken into consideration in hostile work environment cases. Specifically, the following are relevant to a hostile work environment claim:
- Frequency of behavior
- Severity of behavior
- Impact on job performance
- The presence of physical threat
- Impact on the employee’s wellbeing
When Does Harassment Constitute a Hostile Work Environment in a Workplace?
In order for harassment to create an unlawful work environment, one of the following must be true:
- Employee must endure the offensive conduct as a condition of continued employment; or
- Conduct is so severe or pervasive that it creates a hostile work environment that a reasonable person would consider to be “hostile.”
What would a reasonable person consider a hostile work environment to entail? According to the EEOC, in order for severe or pervasive conduct to rise to the level of creating a hostile work environment, a reasonable person would need to consider the conduct to be “intimidating, hostile, or abusive.” In order to have a hostile work environment claim, an employee must be able to prove one of the following:
- Harassing conduct is pervasive and happens regularly; or
- Harassing conduct only happened once in an isolated incident but it was so severe and serious that it rises to the level of being unlawful.
The EEOC emphasizes that isolated incidents (unless they are serious) will not be considered illegal. Rather, in order to be illegal, the conduct must generate a work environment that would be hostile, intimidating, or offensive.
Examples of Unlawful Harassment Creating a Hostile Work Environment
The following are some examples of behavior that could create a hostile work environment:
- Making sexually explicit comments in the workplace;
- Directing sexist or homophobic comments toward an individual worker;
- Making comments about an employee’s age or asking regularly when they are going to retire;
- Making racial or ethnic slurs toward an employee who is (or is perceived to be) of that race or ethnicity;
- Making fun of people with disabilities;
- Making constant demeaning remarks about older employees in the workplace; or
- Displaying anti-Semitic or anti-Islamic imagery.
What Do I Do If I Experience a Harassment?
A wide array of factors contribute to the presence of a hostile work environment. For that reason, it can be difficult to prove whether or not your work environment is hostile. If you believe that you are experiencing or have experienced a hostile work environment, try to keep records of any instances of discrimination or harassment. Write down any hostile communication or actions, including where it took place and who was involved.
At many companies and organizations, there is a designated individual or department wherein you can file a complaint regarding a hostile work environment. This does not work for everyone, however, and there are several other resources available to assist you, including:
Filing a claim through one of these agencies does not preclude you from seeking legal advice, and in fact it is helpful to speak with a dedicated team of hostile work environment lawyers in Long Island before filing as they can assist you. In many cases, guidance from professional hostile work environment lawyers can be beneficial to creating a successful strategy for your case.
How Do I File A Hostile Work Environment Claim?
A hostile work environment can exist when there is almost any kind of harassment occurring on the job. From sexual harassment to harassment based on an employee’s racial or ethnic identity, gender, age, religion or disability, an experienced Long Island hostile work environment lawyer can help you to file a claim. While we know how difficult it can be to come forward with a hostile work environment claim, especially when your employer or a supervisor is the party engaged in the harassing behavior, our advocates will be there for you every step of the way.
Do not hesitate to get in touch with us to find out more about ending the hostile work environment at your job. Contact Ricotta & Marks, P.C. online to learn more about our services or call us today at 347-464-8694 for more information about initiating a hostile work environment claim on Long Island.