Harassment in the workplace can create a hostile work environment that negatively affects an employee’s personal and business life, making you dread or fear going to work. Exposure to constant sexual harassment can make victims feel trapped and cause significant mental and emotional repercussions. When employers create or allow a hostile work environment, victims can bring a legal claim for compensation against them.
Discuss Your Case With a Hostile Work Environment Attorney
If you are stuck in a hostile work environment and would like to learn more about your legal options, Lipsky Lowe LLP is here to help. Our experienced employment attorneys will review your case and advise you of your legal options. We have a proven track record of successfully representing clients who’ve been subjected to a hostile work environment in New York City. Contact us today to schedule your free initial consultation.
What Is a Hostile Work Environment?
A hostile work environment refers to discriminatory harassment in the workplace that is unlawful under federal, state, and New York City laws. In New York, these claims are often part of a claim based on sexual harassment. However, sexual harassment isn’t the only type of discrimination that can create one. Discriminatory harassment becomes unlawful when enduring offensive conduct becomes a condition of continued employment.
Additionally, discriminatory harassment occurs when the conduct is pervasive or severe enough to create a work environment that a reasonable person would consider intimidating, hostile, or abusive. Typically, isolated incidents of harassment or discrimination don’t rise to the level of creating a hostile work incident unless the isolated incident is very serious. In most cases, a hostile work environment claim is based on a series of acts that, taken together, negatively impact a person’s terms and conditions of employment. By contrast, if your manager is – to put it bluntly – a jerk to everyone, he or she is unlikely creating an unlawful hostile work environment because no discriminatory animus exists.
Most claims involve sexual harassment and offensive or intimidating work environments. When the work environment becomes so unbearable that the employee cannot continue working, it becomes a hostile work environment. An employee’s environment may start as tolerable, but it can still become hostile over time. In many hostile work environments, employees are scared to continue working because they know they’ll experience devastating harassment. Offensive conduct that may include:
- Offensive jokes
- Physical threats or assault
- Display of offensive pictures or objects
- Interference with work performance
Proving a Claim
Bringing a claim against an employer for a hostile work environment can be challenging. Consulting with an experienced attorney as soon as possible helps you prove your claim. You and your attorney can begin gathering evidence supporting your claim and developing a legal strategy for success.
In New York, there are two key elements employees need to prove in a case. First, the employee must prove that the workplace was permeated with discriminatory intimidation. The intimidation must have been sufficiently severe or pervasive to alter the victim’s work environment conditions.
Second, the employee must prove that the employer is legally responsible for the conduct. Courts will consider the following factors to determine whether the conduct is sufficiently severe or pervasive:
- The frequency of the discriminatory conduct
- The severity of the discriminatory conduct
- Whether it’s physically threatening or humiliating or merely an inoffensive utterance
- Whether the conduct unreasonably interferes with work performance, and
- The effect of the conduct on the employee’s psychological well-being
Filing a Claim Against Your Employer
To obtain damages and compensation, an employee will likely need to file a claim against his or her employer. Sometimes a resolution can be reached pre-litigation, with the assistance of the skilled attorneys here. If litigation is necessary, we can file the lawsuit in various forums. Where to file it is an important strategic decision that will only be made after careful consultation with the client.
The specific types of damages to which you are entitled depend on where you file your claim. If you file your claim under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, you can pursue compensatory and punitive damages along with attorneys’ fees and costs. Compensatory damages are used to put the victim in the same or similar position they would have been in had the hostile work environment never occurred. Compensatory damages include back pay, medical expenses, lost employment benefits, pain, and suffering.
They can also include front pay or reinstatement into the position. When the claimant can demonstrate that the employee engaged in intentional discrimination and that the conduct was especially malicious, they can obtain additional punitive damages. Under New York state law, claimants are entitled to the same type of compensatory damages, but not punitive damages. Finally, in New York City, punitive damages are available in claims. New York City doesn’t cap the punitive damages an employee can receive.
Our NYC Hostile Work Environment Attorneys Can Help
Have you been subjected to a hostile work environment in New York City? If so, the experienced employment attorneys at Lipsky Lowe LLP are here to help. Contact us today to schedule your free initial consultation and learn more about your legal options.