Hostile Work Environment

My Boss Sent Me a Dick Pic. What Should I Do?

A woman telephoned our law firm the other day to ask one of the starkest questions we've ever heard:  “So, my boss texted me a dick pic last night.  What do I do?” 

It's an infuriating fact of life: women who want nothing more than to have a good career and earn a good living confront some ugly behavior by men.  Sometimes that behavior is outright illegal; sometimes it is merely disgusting.  In either case, it can be helpful to have the advice of an employment lawyer.

So, if your boss emails you a picture of a penis, or if he texts you a selfie of himself in underwear, or if sends you a link to porn, what should you do?

First – Save the message.  You don't have to look at it again, just save it somewhere that it can't be deleted.  For example, if he sends you a picture can only be viewed from your work computer, take a picture of it on your personal phone.  The photo may be repulsive, but it is important evidence.  And the first thing you can do to stand up for yourself and protect yourself is preserve that evidence.

Second – Give yourself some time to think.  Do you like your job, and want to stay?  Or would you prefer to negotiate a severance and move on with your career elsewhere?  Do you want your boss to be fired, or do you want to be able to work with him the future, and move on from this stupid incident?   Do you prefer to handle the situation yourself, or do you want someone else to be your adviser and advocate?   

Third – As the saying goes, "First plan your work, then work your plan."  If you want to leave your job and get a severance, you might want to call an employment lawyer.  If you want to stay at your job, but have your boss disciplined, you might want to report the incident internally.  If you want to handle it privately, you may want to message your boss directly. 

But no matter what, you absolutely do not have to take that sort of nonsense from your boss.  If your boss is harassing you with dick pics or naked selfies or porn, you can contact an employment lawyer and fight back.  Call or e-mail us any time.  We are here to help.

 

Frequently Asked Questions about New York Hostile Work Environment

Simple Q&A on New York Hostile Work Environment Law

Q: How Bad Does it Have to Be? A: Really bad. To win a hostile work environment claim, a plaintiff has to prove that that his or her workplace was “so severely permeated with discriminatory intimidation, ridicule, and insult that the terms and conditions of her employment were thereby altered.” Alfano v. Costello, 294 F.3d 365, 373-74 (2d Cir. 2002). In other words, the inappropriate conduct has to be more than a minor issue at work and must have significantly changed your working conditions. Keep in mind, whether or not working conditions have been changed is determined from the standard of a reasonable person. The court will ask, “what would a ‘reasonable person’ think of this situation?”

Q: What is a “reasonable person”? A: A “reasonable person” can vary with the judge. The concept is meant to approximate what an average person would do in the plaintiff’s situation.

Q: Is One Instance Sufficient? A: It can be, but it has to be really bad. A Plaintiff must show “either that a single incident was extraordinarily severe, or that a series of incidents were sufficiently continuous and concerted to have altered the conditions of her working environment.” Cruz v. Coach Stores, Inc., 202 F.3d 560, 570 (2d Cir. 2000). The key is that the working environment has been altered as a result of the conduct.

Q: What About Many Small Things Over Time? A: Same answer as above. If the many small things impact the working environment, they may amount to a hostile work environment. However the series of incidents must be “more than episodic; they must be sufficiently continuous and concerted in order to be deemed pervasive.” Perry v. Ethan Allen, Inc., 115 F.3d 143, 149 (2d Cir. 1997).

Q: What Factors Do Courts Consider? A: The factors courts examine 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.” Harris v. Forklift Systems, Inc., 510 U.S. 17, 23 (1993).

Q: Does the Conduct Have to be Discriminatory? A: Yes. For example, a plaintiff cannot bring a hostile work environment claim based on race when the conduct had nothing to do with race. The conduct does not, however, have to be directed at the plaintiff. A hostile work environment claim can be brought based on discriminatory treatment of others.

More questions?  Contact us for a free consultation about New York Hostile Work Environment Law.