Articles Posted in Hostile Work Environment

The phrase “holistic approach” is popular in many fields these days, from education to healthcare to business. The word holistic, according to the Oxford Dictionary, means “characterized by comprehension of the parts of something as intimately interconnected and explicable only by reference to the whole.” What does that have to do with employment law? More than you might think, especially if you have been the victim of a pervasively hostile work environment. A recent hostile work environment case from just to our north reinforces the rule that, in hostile work environment cases, the courts must consider the misconduct not as a series of separate events but rather as a single picture to be assessed holistically. Whether the harassment you endured was pervasive or was less frequent but more egregious, a knowledgeable New York City hostile work environment lawyer can help you get the relief you deserve.

The employee in the case, V.M., was a machine equipment operator in the highway department of a town in Rockland County. The operator’s decade-long time on the job was permeated with a wide array of acts of sex discrimination and harassment, according to her lawsuit. One supervisor allegedly barred her from using the women’s restroom in the administrative portion of the highway department office, thereby forcing her to change clothes in a closet infested with rats.

A non-supervisory male member of another crew allegedly tried to close V.M.’s fingers in doors and blocked her pathway in the parking lot. A foreman on a different road crew “bullied [V.M.] by making “disgusting noises” when she passed him and blocking doorways she tried to enter,” according to the complaint. That foreman also allegedly yelled at V.M. for refusing to drive a truck that she’d previously identified as needing maintenance work.

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The law generally, but especially the law of discrimination, is continuing to evolve and change. One jurisdiction where that’s true is New York State. State law recently changed in an important way that helps workers harmed by discrimination on the job. The change lowers the standard of proof the worker must establish to have a viable discrimination claim. This illustrates the importance of having legal representation from a knowledgeable New York City employment discrimination lawyer who is fully up-to-date on the law and knows how to use those recent changes to your maximum benefit.

As an example of how the above-mentioned change in New York State represents a positive change for workers, there’s this recent color discrimination case.

The worker, C.C., was a nanny in Manhattan. The nanny’s lawsuit alleged that her employer (who was also the mother of the child for whom C.C. provided care) “consistently mocked” the color of her skin. That mockery included telling her older son that the nanny’s face was the same color as “poop” and subsequently encouraging the child to repeat the scatological observation, laughing and smiling when he did so, according to the complaint.

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In this day and age, you might think that people in supervisory roles in the workplace would understand that the team members who work for them are not their dating pool. Regrettably, if you thought that, you’d often be proven wrong, as court dockets have no shortage of cases where exactly that sort of misconduct allegedly occurred. People go to work to achieve goals, get paid, and maybe make the world a better place, not to be “hit upon” or propositioned. If you have endured that kind of workplace, don’t think you simply have to put up with it. Instead, get in touch with a knowledgeable New York City sexual harassment lawyer to discuss your options.

J.F., a woman in her 30s, allegedly was one of those workers who endured that sort of sexual harassment. It began in March 2019, when she took a job as a merchandise coordinator with an e-commerce entity in New York City. Allegedly, the sexual harassment began almost immediately.

During the woman’s first week on the job, her male supervisor asked her a string of problematic questions, which included things like “are you a lesbian?” and “do you have cats?” The supervisor explained his question by opining that he “figured at your age that if there weren’t kids or marriage that there must be a cat in the picture,” according to the complaint.

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An old proverb says that a “little knowledge is a dangerous thing.” In few areas is that more true than the law. Some non-lawyers fancy themselves knowledgeable in the law. They may have taken a seminar discussing an area of the law, they may even engage with the law semi-regularly at work, but they may still not know the law. Sometimes, the impacts of that are benign. Other times, especially when it comes to employment law, the effects most definitely are not. If you’re someone who had this kind of experience and suffered workplace harm as a result of it, do not delay in getting in touch with an experienced New York employment discrimination lawyer.

One of the latest examples comes from a hostile work environment case from here in the city. The plaintiff, M.G., worked at an employment agency in Brooklyn. One day, a male coworker swore at a female coworker. That included calling her the “B-word.” The female coworker complained to management.

A week and a half later, during a meeting that included M.G., the male coworker, and the CEO, the CEO indicated that the female coworker would be terminated. The CEO also decided to conduct an impromptu legal seminar, telling M.G. that a coworker could call her that B-word and that such conduct “was not discrimination.”

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For about as long as workers have endured sexual harassment on the job, others have tried to rationalize that harassment away. Not every actionable instance of sexual harassment is as obvious or clear-cut as a 1990s Michael Douglas-Demi Moore motion picture. People may try to trivialize your victimization as mere “jokes.” They may try to dismiss it as not valid because the harasser wasn’t trying to get sexual favors from you. Don’t listen to them. Instead, get the knowledgeable advice you need from a skilled New York City sexual harassment lawyer.

Two of the more common excuses used to try to sweep away sexual harassment is that either (a) it wasn’t harassment because the harasser’s inappropriate comments were just ordinary workplace jokes or teasing, or (b) it wasn’t sexual given the genders and the sexual orientations of the harasser and the victim.

These excuses don’t fly according to the law, as a recent federal court ruling in a hostile work environment case again reminds us.

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On the job, you may have experienced something that was blatantly inappropriate, unacceptable, and wrong, but you may not instantaneously have spoken out. Even if you didn’t, and even if others thought you were “OK” with it, that doesn’t make it OK and doesn’t mean that you cannot use that improper conduct as the foundation of a hostile work environment lawsuit. If it has happened to you at your workplace, reach out to a knowledgeable New York hostile work environment attorney to discuss your legal options.

Have you ever found yourself in a situation where someone did or said something you found highly personally offensive? (We’re confident almost all readers are nodding “yes” right now.) Many of us may say or do nothing. “Unfriending” that guy you graduated high school with — the one who keeps posting memes mocking your ethnicity or your sexual orientation or your religion — would cost you little, but you fear the possible repercussions anyway. You somehow feel an innate urge not to “rock the boat.”

Now, imagine you were subjected to those offensive comments, not on Facebook, but at work. Repeatedly. You know the behavior is wrong and is hurtful to you. But you also know you need that job, and you fear the consequences if you speak out. Would you object, or would you gently smile and laugh (and hope it stops soon)? Whether you are the objecting kind or the laughing type, you may still potentially have experienced an actionable hostile work environment.

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Under federal law, you must prove that you suffered either “severe” or “pervasive” harassment to win a hostile work environment case. So, what happens if the harassment you endured was encapsulated in just one incident? Clearly, that’s not pervasive, but can it be severe? The answer is “yes, it can,” so don’t give up on your case just because you don’t have a long list of incidents of harassment. Instead, reach out to an experienced New York sexual harassment lawyer and find out what options exist for you.

The case of B.B., a clerical assistant with the New York Department of Sanitation, is a strong example of what a viable single-incident hostile work environment case looks like.

In 2014, the department reassigned B.B. to a garage in upper Manhattan. At the Manhattan garage, B.B. allegedly was the target of multiple sexually explicit comments about her body.

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In your federal lawsuit for workplace sexual harassment, one of the keys to getting the best possible result is making sure you get to put before the court all of your evidence, with none of it being stymied but a fallacious effort by the defense to exclude it. Another key is ensuring that you are successful in keeping out all of the defense’s evidence that, according to the rules, is inadmissible. Doing these things will strengthen your case and weaken the defense’s case, thereby giving you an enhanced opportunity for success. To maximize your ability to do all of these things, make sure that you have the representation you need from a knowledgeable New York sexual harassment lawyer.

Undeniably, the #metoo movement did a vital service in exposing the rampant and sometimes severe sexual harassment women endure in certain industries. As the New York Times pointed out back in 2018, though, modeling is an area where men experience an elevated frequency of harassment.

Regardless of your gender, the federal rules can be a powerful friend in your sexual harassment case. Consider, as a good example, the lawsuit of a male model currently proceeding in the Southern District of New York federal court.

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It is, perhaps, the most incendiary word in the English language today. But is a single utterance of the N-word enough to make for a successful hostile work environment claim under federal law? With the U.S. Supreme Court refusing to hear a Texas man’s case, the answer to that will remain varied based upon where you bring your case. Fortunately for Black workers here in New York, there are a multitude of legal avenues available if you’ve been on the receiving end of that word on the job. To learn more about your options, make sure you’re getting the knowledgeable advice you need from an experienced New York workplace discrimination lawyer.

The case the Supreme Court declined to take involved a Black man who worked at a Dallas hospital and who ostensibly was fired for insubordination. According to the worker, his was a hostile work environment and his employer actually fired him in retaliation for his complaining about that environment.

Allegedly, R.C.’s workplace was one where the “N-word” was scratched into an elevator and where the storage room he often used had two swastikas drawn on the wall. The trial court and the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals said that the N-word graffiti and the swastikas were not severe or pervasive enough to make for a hostile work environment.

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Not too long ago, Pew Research Center published research findings that, for many women, were probably supremely unsurprising. While women experienced sexual harassment across a full range of workplaces, the research found that the problem was worst in male-dominated fields. Climbing the ladder and achieving success as a woman in a male-dominated field is hard enough; you shouldn’t also have to overcome the toxicity of sexual harassment, too. If you have experienced a work environment made hostile by sexual harassment, you do not simply have to “deal with it” because the field of work you chose is populated mostly by men. Instead, reach out to a knowledgeable New York sexual harassment lawyer and find out how you can take action.

According to the research released by Pew, about 1 in 5 women in gender-balanced workplaces and female-dominated workplaces experienced sexual harassment at work. For women in male-dominated workplaces, the percentage of workplace sexual harassment was notably higher, at 28%.

A recent report from the New York Daily News is one data point that appears to further back up those numbers. The New York Mets’ baseball organization was, according to multiple female employees, a workplace “toxic” from sexual harassment.

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