Hostile Work Environment

Hostile Work Environment Lawyer serving Rockland County, NY & Bergen County, NJ

If you work or live in Rockland County, NY, or in Bergen County, NJ and are in need of an age discrimination lawyer, The Zdanis Law Firm can help.  Lead attorney, Karen Zdanis, has both a MBA and her law degree.  She began her career consulting with Fortune type corporations and has been practicing law since 2001.  This real world understating of business and how corporations operate give her and understanding of the issues of hostile work environment issues that cannot just be learned in law school.  The firm is small enough to give you the attention you want but talented and experienced enough to deliver the results you need.

Hostile Work Environment Claims – In General

New Jersey and New York statutes do not expressly permit a claim for a hostile work environment, although a hostile work environment can be a cause of a constructive termination. The term “hostile work environment” as it is regularly used in employment law in New York and New Jersey discrimination to mean offensive conduct directed at employees because of their membership in a protected class of individuals (for example, a class based on race, religion or disability).

If you are afraid to go to work to face your boss or co-workers because of a prolonged period of humiliation or fear of physical harm, you may be the victim of a hostile work environment. In New York and New Jersey, federal law protects employees from being harassed because of their age (40 or older), race, religion, ethnicity, sex (including pregnancy), and disability.  An employer must employ more than 15 employee (or more than 20 employees for age discrimination).

Protected categories in New York (the Human Rights Law):

In addition, New York has a law that protects the following categories (some additional categories that are not protected under federal law) age, race, creed, color, national origin, sexual orientation, military status, sex, marital status, and disability.

Protected categories in New Jersey (the Law Against Discrimination)

In addition, in New Jersey has a law that protects the following categories (some additional categories that are not protected under federal law).  New Jersey’s protected categories include: race, creed, color, national origin, nationality, ancestry, age, sex (including pregnancy), familial status, marital status, domestic partnership or civil union status, affectional or sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, atypical hereditary cellular or blood trait, genetic information, liability for military service, and mental or physical disability, perceived disability, and AIDS and HIV status.

What constitutes a legal claim for a hostile work environment?

Because each workplace is unique, it is difficult to define exactly what circumstances comprise a hostile work environment. There is a broad range of conduct that might make an employee feel harassed or perceive a hostile work environment. Therefore, it is necessary to carefully understand the circumstances of each case.  For example, if an improper joke or offensive comment is made on one occasion, most often that would not be not enough to constitute a hostile work environment. However, if behavior is extreme and outrageous, it may be enough.

Most commonly, harassment is focused on an employee’s gender, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, or a trait that protected by state or federal laws, and therefore is termed a “protected category.” Just as there are different protected categories, there are different types of harassment.  One or even a few instances of a mean and angry boss, without more is usually not enough for a hostile work environment.  The legal standard for a hostile work environment is where the workplace is permeated with “discriminatory intimidation, ridicule, and insult'” so badly and pervasively that it is found to “alter the terms or conditions of employment.” Harris v Forklift Sys., Inc., 510 U.S. 17, 21 (1993).

Some examples of straightforward hostile work environments are as follows:

  • An employee inappropriately touches you without invitation whenever he or she works with you and despite you telling him or her that you do not appreciate it and even though your supervisor knows about it they do nothing to help.
  • Co-workers often tell ethnic jokes on the job, and when you report it because it is offensive to you, your employer does nothing but tell you that you should just ignore it.
  • A supervisor makes it clear that if an employee does not have sex with him, they will be fired.
  • Co-workers send pornographic images and sexually explicit jokes to each other by email, and your employer knows about it, tolerates it and does nothing to stop it.
  •  A supervisor makes negative and insulting remarks about the capabilities and physical appearance of older employees.

How Oppressive does the Work Environment Need to Be?

The harassment must be both “severe” and “pervasive.” One offensive remark, or mere teasing, usually will not suffice. However, these 2 factors operate on a sliding scale: the more severe the harassment, the less pervasive it has to be, and the less severe, the more pervasive it must be.

Discrimination must be against a protected class including age, religion, disability and race. Many states have recently added marital status, sexual orientation and gender identity.

The harassment and discrimination is based on an “objective” standard. This means that a reasonable employer knew or should have known that the environment was hostile and failed to intervene. Employers can also be liable for directly creating the hostile environment.

What to do if you think you may be a victim of harassment and/or are in a hostile work environment:

  • Act quickly, there is a limited amount of time for you to take legal action.
  • If you were fired and received an agreement your employer asked you to sign so that you can receive a severance, be careful! If you sign the severance agreement you may waive your rights to bring a lawsuit or claim discrimination.
  • Gather written reviews and other documents proving you were a good employee and were performing to satisfaction, as well as your employee manual and any emails that may explain that what happened was discriminatory.
  • Contact an experienced employment lawyer

Lawyer Karen Zdanis has a Distinctive Approach to Hostile Work Environment Cases:

Employment law has many facets that are different from issues faced in general litigation. Not only because there are often personal and emotional issues at play, but because the laws pertaining to employment law are complex.  In some cases, an employee needs to file with a government administrative agency before going to court, or in other cases file a notice of claim within a short amount of time after being terminated.

In my opinion, which incorporates more than fifteen years of successfully representing employer and employees as clients, employment law cases are best suited for attorneys equipped with specific knowledge and experience because they involve different rules and obligations.  I make sure my clients are always as educated as possible about these choices, because an informed choice is important from start to finish.  My approach is to begin a case with as much information as possible, so that I fully understand the client’s perspective.  This enables me to formulate a strategy that is best suited for the case.

How is the Zdanis Law Firm Different?

Because each case is unique, I do not believe there is a scripted answer to apply to employment cases. I pay careful attention, especially at the beginning of a case to make sure the appropriate steps are followed.  Someone who has been discriminated against often has options as far as what legal course of action to take. An employee who has been sexually harassed should consider all options available to him or her to be able to make the best choice for his or her individual situation.

The Zdanis Law Firm is a boutique firm that delivers personal attention and excellent legal representation. As the lead attorney, I feel it is my responsibility to analyze your case to determine if it has merit.  If your case does rise to the level of successful hostile work environment case, I will be honest and tell you why.  I feel it is irresponsible and frankly unprofessional to take a case and a client’s hard-earned money for a case that cannot be won.  If I take your case, I set a plan from the beginning, tailored to each specific case’s needs. That is why I believe my approach to handling hostile work environment cases is effective.

What do I do if I think I may need  Hostile Work Environment lawyer in Rockland County NY or Bergen County NJ?

If you have read the above information on hostile work environment and harassment and think you are a victim, the first step to deciding whether or not you should pursue a legal action is to understand your rights.  I am available for a brief telephone call to determine if your situation rises to the level of a valid legal claim and to discern if it merits an in-person consultation. Good legal counsel is an important component to protecting your rights.  When you need a hostile work environment lawyer call The Zdanis Law Frim – Rockland County, NY: 845-356-0855, Bergen County, NJ:  201-695-8005.