How To Identify a Hostile Work Environment in New York

By Douglas Lipsky

New York City is home to home to people from all walks of life who come together to work, create, and innovate. However, employees here are not immune to a hostile work environment. If you have experienced discrimination or harassment in your workplace, you need an experienced employment lawyer to protect your rights. This article will discuss how to identify a hostile work environment and the protections available under New York law. 

What is the Definition of a Hostile Work Environment?

A hostile work environment is a workplace where an individual is subjected to harassment or discrimination that is severe enough to interfere with the employee’s ability to perform their job effectively. Such an environment is illegal and can negatively impact an employee’s well-being.

What Behavior Constitutes a Hostile Work Environment Under New York Law?

The New York State Human Rights Law and the New York City Human Rights Law protect employees from harassment based on their membership in a protected class, such as race, color, national origin, sex, age, disability, religion, or sexual orientation. 

A hostile work environment occurs when an employee is subjected to unwelcome conduct based on their protected class that is either severe or pervasive enough to create an intimidating, hostile, or offensive work environment. Examples of behavior that may contribute to a hostile work environment include:

  • Offensive jokes, slurs, or name-calling
  • Unwelcome sexual advances, comments, or innuendos
  • Intimidation, threats, or physical aggression
  • Displaying offensive images or materials
  • Sabotaging or interfering with an employee’s work
  • Unwarranted negative performance evaluations

Not every act of unkindness or inappropriate behavior rise to the level of a hostile work environment under the law. Knowing how to spot such an environment and protect yourself takes the skills of an experienced employment law attorney. 

How to Prove You Have Experienced a Hostile Work Environment

Proving that you have experienced a hostile work environment involves several key steps:

  1. Document the incidents – Keep a detailed, written record of the offending behavior, including dates, times, locations, and the individuals involved. Save any relevant emails, text messages, or other communications as evidence.
  2. Report the harassment – Inform your employer of the hostile work environment, following any internal reporting procedures outlined in your employee handbook or company policies. 
  3. Seek witnesses and gather evidence – If other employees have experienced or witnessed similar behavior, ask them to provide written statements or testify on your behalf. Also, collect other evidence to support your claim, such as performance evaluations, attendance records, or security footage.
  4. Consult with an employment law attorney – If the harassment persists despite your efforts to address it, contact an experienced employment law attorney who can help you navigate the legal process and protect your rights.

Why You Need an Employment Lawyer

An employment law attorney can help you fight back against a hostile work environment. Their knowledge of employment law will help you understand your options, build a solid case, and navigate the complex legal landscape. By working with an experienced attorney, you can hold your employer and obtain just compensation for enduring a hostile work environment.

The Takeaway

A hostile work environment can impact your professional growth and personal well-being and violate your employment rights. Take action and make your workplace a safe and inclusive space for all by consulting an experienced employment lawyer.

About the Author
Douglas Lipsky is a co-founding partner of Lipsky Lowe LLP. He has extensive experience in all areas of employment law, including discrimination, sexual harassment, hostile work environment, retaliation, wrongful discharge, breach of contract, unpaid overtime, and unpaid tips. He also represents clients in complex wage and hour claims, including collective actions under the federal Fair Labor Standards Act and class actions under the laws of many different states. If you have questions about this article, contact Douglas today.