We have discussed already what a hostile work environment is, but that was just the theory. Now we want to provide you with a number of hostile work environment examples to give you a better idea of what it really is and to help you determine yourself whether you have been a victim or a witness of one.
If you find that something similar has happened to you, talk to an employment lawyer to ensure that it really was illegal harassment. If your lawyer’s advice is that your rights and freedoms have been violated, you may want to consider taking legal steps to find justice.
Read it all and see if you can recognize your situation in any of these examples. If you do or if you doubt that you do, do not hesitate to call an employment lawyer for a free consultation.
A hostile work environment is an unwelcome or offensive behavior in the workplace which makes one or more employees feel uncomfortable, scared or intimidated in their place of employment. When someone behaves inappropriately in a workplace and someone else feels scared, intimidated, harassed or abused in another way due to their actions, that’s a hostile work environment.
Such a work environment sometimes is called an “offensive work environment” or “abusive work environment”. It can be caused by anyone who is present at the workplace, including but not limited to a coworker, a supervisor, a business owner, an independent contractor, or someone else. Such a work environment is damaging for the mental health of the abused employee, therefore there are federal and state laws prohibiting behaviors that lead to the abuse.
Remember that an abusive work environment has two elements:
While, in general, most of the behaviors that cause someone to feel intimidated or abused are considered to create a hostile work environment, it doesn’t necessarily mean that every behavior is abusive.
Any behavior that is abusive in nature may cause a hostile work environment. It always depends on the particular situation; hence it is best to consult an employment lawyer to ensure that you have a case for an illegal hostile work environment. But, in general, your situation may meet the legal requirements of a hostile work environment if:
This is not an exhaustive list of what could make a hostile work environment. It should give you an idea about what qualifies as one, but before making any decision on further legal steps, remember that nothing beats the advice of a hostile work environment lawyer.
In the meantime, we’ll dive into specific examples of a hostile work environment to help you better understand what it is.
Sexual harassment is one of the most common abusive behavior in the workplace. In most cases, women are the victims. The most common abusive behaviors include:
Having said that, an employee may reasonably feel sexually abused if another person at the workplace comments on the look of her body parts, makes any kind of sexual jokes, or call her or him any names in a sexual way.
There are some famous hostile environment examples of sexual harassment. One of them is Birschtein v. New United Motor Manufacturing, where a female worker suffered at the hands of a coworker who insisted to go on a date with her and stared at her at the workplace. Regarding the staring, part of the judgment says that “sexual harassment does not necessarily involve sexual conduct”. But, in the context of the events that preceded the staring, it was obvious that his intention was clearly to harass her sexually, hence the judgment.
Another one is Gupta v. Florida Board of Regents, in which a mix of touching, staring, sexual comments, over a long period of time that made a female employee feel unsafe at work resulted in a judgment against the abusive co-worker.
These and other similar cases prove that victims of sexual harassment are being protected by New York Courts, state and federal.
Discriminatory harassment comes in many different forms. It can be based on race, religion, disability, sexual orientation, age or gender. Depending on what the discriminatory harassment is based on, we’ll provide you with different examples to help you understand it better.
Examples of racial harassment may include:
Others may include but are not limited to racial slurs, disgust, degrading comments, and others.
US courts have a tradition of fighting racism. Some of their most notorious decision include Brown v. Board of Education, where the US Supreme Court prohibited segregation. If you see it happening in your workplace, do not hesitate to fight and seek justice.
Although US citizens enjoy religious freedoms, religious harassment cases are not foreign to US courts. Some of their most important cases include Campos v. The city of Blue Springs, where the court decided that the supervisor should not demand the employee do work against their religious beliefs.
As you can see, courts tend not to interfere with what makes a religious belief, therefore examples of religious harassment at the workplace are as varied as they can be. The most common, however, are:
The most common examples of disability harassment examples in the workplace are the following:
If you face any of these behaviors or other ones not mentioned, that creates a hostile work environment for you, talk to an employment lawyer to consider your options. NY courts often decide on cases like yours. To give you an idea and encourage you, in Bragdon v. Abbott the court has decided that even HIV counts as a disability. If you really were harassed due to a disability in the workplace, you have legal options.
Sexual orientation harassment has had a place in our history, but only most recently with the help of the #metoo movement, people are turning to the courts for help. In a recent case, Chavez v. Credit Nation Auto Sales LLC, the court protected a transgender person from being fired. In Koren v. Ohio Bell Tel. Co. the court protected an employee who has been fired based on his sexual orientation.
In Cental v. Potter, the court, among others, stated: “Sexual orientation harassment is often, if not always, motivated by a desire to enforce heterosexually defined gender norms. In fact, stereotypes about homosexuality are directly related to our stereotype about the proper roles of men and women.”
Most often, examples of sexual orientation harassment may include cruel jokes, comments, and teasing, all of which are targeting sexual orientation of employees.
A person facing age-based harassment at work may be facing:
Sometimes this kind of harassment aims to push someone into early retirement. In other cases, it causes discouragement and low self-esteem for young workers.
In Meritor Sav. Bank v. Vinson the US Supreme Court has stated that employment laws “afford employees the right to work in an environment free from discriminatory intimidation, ridicule, and insult” on the basis of age. Age-based harassment and discrimination are not tolerated, so don’t hesitate to fight when you face them.
Personal harassment examples may include any kind of harassment at the workplace that results in a hostile work environment. Most often it is personal bullying demonstrated through:
US courts have recognized the concept of bullying already in Stanley Black & Decker Inc. v. Krug case, so if you feel distressed due to personal harassment, you may want to consider your options.
The examples of physical harassment in the workplace involve:
Physical harassment is not as common as decades ago, but it still happens. We are far from the times when physical violence had been the norm for solving problems, but some people still use it. If you are being physically harassed, please call the police and a physical harassment in the workplace attorney.
This type of abuse is not as visible and identifiable as other forms. The power harassment definition is very close to the one for bullying. It is a type of abuse where the person in the position of authority exercises power over subordinates.
The most common examples include:
In all these cases, the boss, the supervisor, or another person abuses their authority to exert power over a subordinate. As a result, the subordinate feels harassed and uncomfortable at the workplace.
Power harassment cases are usually dealt with by courts as harassment based on sex, race, religion, or something else. However, even if these harassment bases are not involved in your case, don’t hesitate to seek legal advice to address your personal concerns.
If you think that you may have been psychologically mistreated at work, consider the following examples of psychological harassment in the workplace as guidance:
The list of examples of psychological harassment at work may be endless. There are many ways in which people can abuse each other verbally. As long as that behavior leads to a hostile work environment, it should be stopped by bringing it to your employers attention.
There are many real-life examples of cyberbullying. Any harassment that happens online and produces an abusive work environment is considered to be cyberbullying. Some common examples include:
Online tools allow bullies to hide behind the keyboard and the screen, but in general, they do the same things that we have discussed already. Remember that any abusive behavior that has occurred via the internet is cyberbullying.
Some examples of retaliation in the workplace by the employer, supervisor or someone else include harassing a person who has taken an action against another person in order to get revenge. It may look like this:
Retaliation harassment is often overlooked. It is subtle but creates a lot of fear making the harassed employee not take any action against the abuser.
In most cases, employees are afraid of losing their jobs when considering to bring an action for illegal retaliation. That may happen if you don’t take any action, but if you do and you have an employment lawyer on your side to advise you, chances are that the abuser will think twice before doing anything that could be used against them in court.
The Latin expression may have left you wondering what is an example of quid pro quo sexual harassment, but it is likely that you know some example already. Quid pro quo sexual harassment is when a person in the position of authority requires a romantic or sexual service in exchange for some work-related benefits. Such benefits may include:
This type of abuse can be explicit, where the authority clearly expresses his or her demand for the services, or implicit, where the victim “should have realized” what they meant.
If you take action against someone and take them to court, you should know that you won’t be the first one. NYC Courts often deal with sexual harassment cases, including quid pro quo harassment.
One case of important involved an employee who quit her job due to sexual harassment by a mid-level manager. Before leaving her job, the manager denied her job benefits, implicitly letting her know that she could have them if she provided sexual services. The court acknowledged that it created a hostile work environment and held the employer liable for that. So, if you are in a similar situation, don’t wait to speak with a Quid Pro Quo Sexual Harassment attorney.
When employees come in contact with customers who harass them sexually, the employer is liable for failing to protect them. In general, employers are not liable, but the failure to address the issue may be a basis for their liability.
Third party harassment victims are usually young adults who work on “low-status” jobs, such as cashiers, waters, sales associates, or others. Being at the bottom of the company hierarchy and inexperienced, it is clear why they avoid making scenes.
Third party harassment behavior may include:
However, you should at least inform your employee about the issue and ask them to take measures for eliminating such events. If they don’t do so, consider legal action.
A lot of verbal harassment goes unnoticed and unpunished. Many employees don’t know that they have been verbally abused. Examples of verbal harassment at work can be:
But unlike the discriminatory type of abuse, verbal harassment is often not illegal. The law and courts do not decide on relationships between people, but if someone at work is continuously unpleasant and make you want to quit your job, then you may be a victim of corporate bullying which isn’t actionable in the court of law.
A wide range of behaviors can set the tone for a hostile work environment. All these behaviors define it as “unwelcome or offensive behavior in the workplace, which causes one or more employees to feel uncomfortable, scared, or intimidated in their place of employment”.
In general, there are three criteria for a hostile work environment:
A hostile work environment has two elements: 1) a superior or coworker who take certain actions that could be abusive and 2) an employee who feels uncomfortable or scared to be in his or her workspace due to such behaviors. To determine whether a work environment is hostile, EEOC investigators look at the multiple factors, including lack of diversity at the workplace, the number of young workers, the status of executives or senior managers, compensation tied to customer satisfaction, and others.
Yes, you can sue your employer, but it doesn’t mean that you will necessarily win the case. As long as your employer violated your employment contract or specific law, it is reasonable to expect that you can be successful.
You’ll prove a hostile work environment if you provide proof that:
It is prohibited to be fired for reporting harassment, but it doesn’t mean that your employer will not break the law by terminating your employment. You can increase your chances of staying at work and to prevent a retaliation action by your employer by first reporting any harassment to the Equal Opportunity Employment Commission (EEOC). The EEOC hostile work environment examples show that employers avoid firing employees in such cases.
Yes, you can. But to win, you have to prove that you were subjected to abusive behavior and it was so severe or pervasive that it affected the terms and conditions of your employment.
Yes, if you create a hostile work environment, you can be fired for that. However, the termination of the contract must not occur as a result of illegal discrimination based on a protected characteristic such as age, disability, gender, national origin, race, etc.
When you think that you are a victim of a hostile work environment, it is best to first report it to your employer and then to the EEOC.
When reporting a hostile work environment to your employer you should send an official hostile workplace complaint letter to your employer.
When you write the letter, you need to include important facts about your case. If you skip consulting a lawyer and you don’t know how to write it, you may want to see an example of a hostile work environment letter. Here is a template you can use to ensure that you are on the right track.
As my employer of 14 years, you must understand how much it pains me to write you this letter today. However, I feel that I cannot remain silent any longer. Our work environment in the shipping department of Anytown Department Store has become extremely hostile, and I must ask that measures be taken to remedy this situation.
The problem first became apparent to me three months ago, which was when the first major incident occurred. The new shipping manager, Mr. Brown, called me into his office to tell me that I had sent a package to the wrong address. I politely apologized, but he continued to yell at me for over half an hour until I was crying. I was embarrassed in front of the entire shipping staff.
Hostile events continued over the next few weeks, with Mr. Brown yelling at employees, throwing papers, and threatening to fire us on a regular basis. He is particularly cruel to me, often calling me names and standing over my shoulder. This makes all the employees uncomfortable, and I believe both productivity and morale are down.
I have stepped forward on behalf of the employees of the shipping department because I am the most senior employee, but other members of the department will attest to Mr. Brown’s terrible behavior as well. We cannot work like this for much longer.
I respectfully request that Mr. Brown be held accountable for his actions. He makes employees feel uncomfortable and actually interferes with our ability to work. In the very least, mediation is necessary.
I would appreciate discretion in this matter, as I still must work under Mr. Brown. However, please do contact me at your earliest convenience at 555-555-5555. I look forward to hearing your proposal for solving this problem.
A hostile work environment lawyer at the Law Office of Yuriy Moshes can help you navigate the rough waters. Don’t go through this alone because it’s never easy.
We know that it is very hard to speak, but we also know that it is hard to fight against an employer. We work in the greater New York City area including all the boroughs (Manhattan, Brooklyn, Bronx, Queens, and Staten Island), as well as Northern New Jersey, Long Island, and Upstate New York.