new york hostile work environment lawyer

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.

Does Your Boss Bully You?

Does your boss bully you?  We get this call a lot. The boss is a jerk, mistreats employees, and is verbally abusive. It is awful, it is unacceptable, it is bad for business. More often than not, it is perfectly legal. Bullying is only illegal when it violates certain employment laws. But employment laws do not prohibit bullying, they prohibit discrimination and retaliation. Conduct by your employer is only illegal when it is discriminatory or retaliatory. What Should You Do When Your Boss is a Bully?

1. Try to work it out. More often than not, personality conflicts can be resolved amicably. There are a lot of options here, depending on where you work. You can try to work it out with the supervisor directly, complain to upper management, or just figure out how to make your situation tolerable.

2. Think about moving on. Hate your job? Look for another one. Whether you stay or not is up to you. Think about your finances and career. A word of warning on quitting – if you quit your job, any employment lawsuit will be a lot harder to win.

3. Talk to an employment lawyer. We deal with these situations all the time. We can contact your employer on your behalf, or we can work behind the scenes, helping you with an exit strategy. An employment lawyer can also help you analyze whether you have other claims against your employer, like for harassment or improper payment of wages. The goal is to help you.

If you are working for a bully, think about what you want to accomplish and consider calling an employment lawyer. If you contact us, someone will get back to you within 24 hours.

Granovsky & Sundaresh PLLC - experienced employment lawyers can help
Granovsky & Sundaresh PLLC - experienced employment lawyers can help

Using the 'N' Word Illegal At Work

Jury Agrees Use of N-Word by Black Employer Creates Hostile Work Environment for Black Employee.

Alex Granovsky appears on Dealin’ Straight Radio Show

Brandi Johnson, a 38 year old black woman from New York, was recently awarded a $280,000 verdict in her hostile work environment claim which was heard in a Manhattan federal court. Johnson was awarded $30,000 in punitive damages and $250,000 in compensatory damages after the jury agreed with Plaintiff that her boss’ use of the N-word in a workplace tirade was hostile and discriminatory in nature. Johnson’s complaint comes after the founder of East Harlem STRIVE, Rob Carmona, a black male, repeatedly disparaged her with the use of the N-word and other harsh statements during a 4-minute long berating.

Carmona, the founder of STRIVE, defended his actions, testifying that his verbiage was merely tough love with no discriminatory intent. In fact, Carmona referenced “multiple contexts” in his defense, stating the black and Latino communities use the N-word in affectionate contexts.

Johnson testified during the trial that Carmona’s tirade left her feeling offended, hurt and degraded. Johnson she cried for 45 minutes following Carmona’s rant, feeling embarrassed and disrespected. To Johnson’s benefit, she recorded the March 2012 tirade, in which Carmona repeatedly used the N-word. Johnson’s attorney, Marjorie M. Sharpe, played the recording during the trial, allowing the jury to hear for themselves the language used by Carmona to Johnson and to determine whether or not Carmona’s actions were discriminatory and hostile in nature.

Carmona reiterated his sentiment in regards to his intentions of the use of the N-word, stating, "I come from a different time," where “tough love” and “tough words,” including the N-word, were accepted as motivators.

Believing that Carmona used the N-word and create a hostile work environment, jurors awarded Johnson with a favorable verdict. Although some will argue that the N-word is acceptable in certain contexts, the jury verdict reiterates the very offensive nature of using the N-word, especially in a working and professional environment.

If you feel you have been the victim of harassment or discrimination in New York, contact our New York employment law office today.