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Hostile Work Environment

Pospis Law represents workers who have been subjected to discrimination in the form of a hostile work environment.

In contrast to discrimination that occurs in the form of discrete acts – such as termination, demotion, etc. – a hostile work environment claim is characterized by the cumulative effect of several individual acts (or, in certain cases, an extraordinarily severe act, such as the touching of intimate body part(s)).

To establish a hostile work environment under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the New York State Human Rights Law, a plaintiff must demonstrate conduct that (1) is objectively severe or pervasive – that is, it creates an environment that a reasonable person would find hostile or abusive; (2) creates an environment that the plaintiff subjectively perceives as hostile or abusive; and (3) creates such an environment because of the plaintiff’s protected characteristic.

The New York City Human Rights Law (NYCHRL) is more protective of employees. Unlike its federal and state counterparts, it does not require a showing that the alleged harassment is “severe” or “pervasive”. Rather, it only requires a plaintiff to show that his/her employer treated them less well than similarly situated employees, at least in part for discriminatory reasons.

Relevant factors to consider in determining whether an environment is sufficiently hostile include:

  • the frequency of the discriminatory conduct;
  • its severity;
  • whether it is physically threatening or humiliating, or a mere offensive utterance; and
  • whether it unreasonably interferes with an employee’s work performance.

Courts have determined, for example, that an extraordinarily severe incident that occurs once – such as touching an intimate body part – may be enough to establish a claim for hostile work environment.

If you believe you have been subjected to a hostile work environment, contact us today to discuss your rights.

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