Hostile Work Environment Lawyers in Queens and Long Island, New York
Employees and job seekers alike are guaranteed a safe environment where they can learn, work, and socialize with colleagues. Access to a healthy work environment is a right protected under the law. Working in a hostile environment can severely affect an individual’s job performance as well as their mental and emotional wellbeing. Everyone deserves to work in an environment that is free of harassment. The law guarantees you the right to take action against an employer who refuses to address a hostile work environment. As experienced hostile work environment lawyers in Queens, it is our job to enforce your rights. Ricotta & Marks, P.C., is a New York law firm with hostile work environment lawyers dedicated to promoting employee rights in Queens and Long Island.
New York Attorneys for Discrimination And Hostile Work Environments
The development of a hostile work environment is often not straightforward or easy to define. In some circumstances, unsafe work environments arise from discrimination, thus leading to inappropriate behavior. The law narrowly defines a hostile work environment as one in which the hostility relates to some form of discrimination. Some examples of what the law considers to be contributing factors to a hostile work environment include:
- Racial or ethnic slurs
- Sexually explicit or demeaning comments
- Homophobic or transphobic comments
- Hateful comments about members of a certain religious group
- Mocking jokes or comments about people with disabilities
- Jokes about a person’s age
- Discrimination or lack of accommodations for pregnancy
- Offensive jokes, emails or posters containing any of the above
If you feel that you are working in a hostile environment, it is very important to document it. Be sure to submit a formal complaint in writing and to keep a record of any responses. If you are concerned that your employer will retaliate against you for making a complaint, our Queens hostile work environment lawyers can represent you.
Workplace Harassment and a Hostile Work Environment in Queens
As touched on above, a hostile work environment is often the product of workplace harassment and discrimination. According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), harassment is a form of discrimination that violates the Civil Rights Act of 1964, specifically, Title VII. Harassment may also be a breach of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), or the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (ADEA).
For example, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act is violated due to a hostile work environment when the workplace is “permeated with discriminatory intimidation, ridicule, and insult that is sufficiently pervasive to alter the conditions of the victim’s employment….”
According to the court decision in Alfano v. Costello, 294 F.3d 365, (2nd Cir. 2002), the totality of the circumstances and/or discrimination will be evaluated in order to determine the severity of the issue. Several factors will be assessed, such as:
- First, the harassing behavior–which may include a number of different behaviors, including those listed above–becomes an enduring, pervasive condition of continued employment. This means that an isolated incident of teasing will likely not constitute harassment.
- Second, the conduct is so severe that, even if it is not an enduring condition of continued employment, it creates a hostile work environment or an environment that a reasonable person would find abusive or intimidating.
- Under the New York State Human Rights Law, an employer can be liable for less than under federal law. Under state law, an employee only has to show that the harassment subjected them to “inferior terms, conditions or privileges of employment.”
- The New York City Human Rights Law requires an employee to show even less in order to have a harassment claim. Under City Law, an employee has to show that they were treated less well than their co-workers due to their membership in a protected class.
Who Can Be Involved in a Workplace Harassment & Hostile Work Environment Case?
One misconception that many employees have is that the protection against a hostile work environment and workplace harassment is only afforded when the hostile environment and harassment are the product of a supervisor’s actions. However, this is not the case. To be sure, harassing behavior and the creation of a hostile work environment may involve a co-worker, an employee in another department, a supervisor or manager, or even a non-employee. What’s more, a hostile work environment can be created for those who are not the direct victims of the harassment. For example, if Person A is being harrassed, Person B–a mere observer–may be affected by the offensive conduct and may feel intimidated as such. Anyone who is affected by the conduct and believes that a hostile work environment has been created has the right to bring forth a claim.
It is unlawful for your employer to retaliate against you if you bring forth a claim. If you have been retaliated against for reporting harassment, discrimination, or your belief that a hostile work environment has been created, call a Queens hostile work environment lawyer immediately.
A hostile work environment can be very damaging to an employee’s health.
You may experience anxiety, depression or decreased self-esteem. Our lawyers are prepared to pursue emotional damages in addition to economic and punitive damages.
Resources If You Are In A Hostile Work Environment
Determining the presence of a hostile work environment under the law can be legally complex and dependent on a unique set of factors. The most important course of action to take if you are in a hostile work environment is to seek assistance. Write notes and record every instance of discrimination or harassment and approach the appropriate individual at your workplace to file a complaint.
Aside from filing a complaint with a workplace, there are several institutions in place to protect employees from hostile work environments. Generally, this includes filing a complaint with the proper organization and/or taking legal action with a hostile work environment attorney.
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is responsible for enforcing all anti-discrimination laws within the workplace. The EEOC also has the ability to investigate any claims of discrimination or hostile work environment. Generally, you must submit a claim within 300 days of the date when the discrimination took place.
The New York State Division Of Human Rights
The New York State Division of Human Rights enforces the Human Rights Law in New York, therefore protecting individuals from discrimination both inside and outside of the workplace. If the Division is able to address the case, they will typically conduct an investigation within 180 calendar days.
Steps to Take if You Think You Have a Hostile Work Environment Claim
If you believe that the environment in which you are working is hostile, there are a few important steps to take. First, you should write down all the details of the hostile work environment, including any specific instances of harassment. You should also report the harassment and hostile work environment to your supervisor or HR manager, and keep a detailed record of this interaction and your report. If the problem is not alleviated, you can file a charge of discrimination (remember, workplace harassment is a form of discrimination) with the EEOC, or New York State Division of Human Rights. It is strongly recommended that you consult an attorney for legal guidance and assistance in filing your charge and understanding your rights, options, and what happens next.
How Can Hostile Work Environment Lawyers Help?
As a victim of a hostile work environment, there are several avenues that you can utilize to address the issue. After filing a complaint with an employer, seeking remedy for the unlawful and unjust behavior may involve taking legal action. The hostile work environment attorneys at Ricotta & Marks have the experience necessary to navigate this stressful situation with you.
If you face harassment, know that you do not need to confront it alone. Contact our offices in Queens or Long Island to speak to an experienced Queens hostile work environment lawyer. Call 347-464-8694.