For a long time, our society has strived to protect the rights of all employees, especially those in minority and vulnerable groups. Nonetheless, workplace harassment and hostile work environment discrimination still exist and occur even today.
The phrase hostile work environment is a legal term that refers to unwelcome discriminatory harassment in the workplace. A hostile work environment occurs when the workplace is permeated with discriminatory and offensive comments and actions that alter the conditions of an employee’s work environment.
In New York, illegal harassment is unwelcome conduct that is based on race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy, gender identity, and sexual harassment), national origin, age, disability, genetic information, sexual orientation, alienage or citizenship status, marital status/partnership status, caregiver status, and status as a victim of domestic violence, stalking, and sex offenses. Harassment becomes unlawful where it creates a work environment that a reasonable person would consider intimidating, hostile, or abusive. It is also illegal to harass an employee in retaliation for complaining of, or objecting to, unlawful discrimination.
According to The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), “Petty slights, annoyances, and isolated incidents (unless extremely serious) will not rise to the level of illegality. To be unlawful, the conduct must create a work environment that would be intimidating, hostile, or offensive to reasonable people. Offensive conduct may include, but is not limited to, offensive jokes, slurs, epithets or name calling, physical assaults or threats, intimidation, ridicule or mockery, insults or put-downs, offensive objects or pictures, and interference with work performance.”
In New York, to be deemed an unlawful hostile work environment, the following must be satisfied:
It is important to understand that:
Social media posts can also create a hostile work environment. If someone posts inappropriate photos of a colleague and/or offensive remarks about a coworker to his/her Facebook page, this can contribute to a hostile work environment.
There is currently no law in New York State that prohibits general bullying in the workplace – bullying that is not based on a protected trait. While the law prohibits discriminatory harassment (hostile work environment), the law does not create a general civility code for the workplace.
If you believe that you are being subjected to a hostile work environment, your first step should always be to raise the issue directly with your employer. We always recommend taking the following steps:
Yes, under federal law, you must be able to show that the harassment was based on the victim’s race, color, national origin, gender, pregnancy, religion, disability, age, and genetic information. New York State law also protects against discriminatory harassment based on additional traits, such as gender identity, sexual orientation, alienage or citizenship status, marital status/partnership status, caregiver status, or status as a victim of domestic violence, stalking, and sex offenses. If you are thinking about bringing a hostile work environment lawsuit against your employer, it is best to seek the assistance of an experienced workplace attorney.
Are you experiencing or witnessing discriminatory harassment and/or a hostile work environment in NYC? The Law Offices of Yuriy Moshes, P.C. represents victims of hostile work environments in the greater New York City area including all of the boroughs of New York City (Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, the Bronx and Staten Island) as well as Northern New Jersey, upstate New York, and Long Island. Time is of the essence.
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