What constitutes a hostile work environment?

By Douglas Lipsky

Last updated May 24, 2023

The nature of a hostile work environment under the Federal and New York State Law is that the conduct of an individual against another has to be severe and pervasive, such that a reasonable person would find that their work environment has changed and that they’re having difficulty working in that environment because of the conduct.

Depending on the nature of the comments, if it’s happening more than once, and if it’s becoming frequent, it can rise to the level of a hostile work environment that would be worth filing a lawsuit over. In fact, some words are deemed so offensive that even the use of them one time might be considered to create a hostile work environment. Under New York City Law the standard to establish a hostile work environment is even lower.

You don’t have to show that the conduct is severe and pervasive, you just have to demonstrate that you are being treated “less well than other workers because of your gender”. If you can establish that and demonstrate that it’s had a negative or adverse impact on you then you have a solid hostile work environment claim under New York City Law.

If you’re interested in better understanding if your work environment may be hostile, you can review our helpful infographic covering laws, common misunderstandings, and explanations.

Being forced to work in a hostile work environment can not only negatively impact your career and future earning potential, but it is also a violation of your rights as a citizen of New York. Take action and make your workplace a better place for all employees by consulting an experienced New York 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.