Skip to Content
Request Your Consultation 212-295-5828

Hostile Work Environments And Sexual Harassment


It started as an inappropriate comment overheard at the watercooler. Then, the comments became more direct. Your supervisor made comments about your outfits, appearance, and asked questions about your private life. You tried to brush it off. But then he started to linger by your desk. He would stand behind you while you work, placing his hand on your shoulder. You started to dress differently so he wouldn’t bother you, but instead, he just continued to harass you. Now you wonder if you should look for a new job because you can’t be in that office one more day.

Does this sound familiar to you? When your place of employment becomes a hostile work environment fueled by sexual harassment, you need to stand up for your rights. You may fear repercussions but it’s important that you serve as an advocate for yourself–because you never know who else may be suffering, too. If you are a victim of a hostile work environment, you need a strong legal counsel who will fight for your rights every step of the way. You need Brown Kwon & Lam.

Under New York law, a hostile work environment is created when discriminatory harassment in the workplace occurs. This type of behavior is illegal under federal and state laws. Such legislation which prohibits this behavior includes:

  • Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964
  • Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967
  • Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990
  • New York State Human Rights Laws
  • New York City’s Human Rights Laws

The types of discriminatory behaviors included in a hostile work environment may include unwanted and unwelcomed actions and comments based on race, color, religion, sex, ethnicity, national origin, age, disability, or genetic information.

However, sexual harassment can also be part of a hostile work environment claim, though it is not required.

Sexual Harassment at Work: New York Hostile Work Environments

According to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) sexual harassment may occur in the workplace in a variety of ways and to anyone.

  • The victim does not have to be of the opposite sex from the harasser.
  • The harasser may be a supervisor, an agent, a co-worker, a vendor, or even a customer.
  • Unlawful sexual harassment may occur without economic injury to or discharge of the victim.
  • The harasser’s conduct must be unwelcome.

Because there are two types of sexual harassment — hostile work environment and quid pro quo — there are distinctions in each.

If a supervisor or coworker acts in a way that exposes another to unwanted sexual behavior, they may have committed hostile work environment sexual harassment. This behavior works to offend, humiliate, or distress the victim. Common hostile work environment sexual harassment behaviors include:

  • Comments about looks and clothing
  • Sexual comments
  • Sexually suggestive gestures
  • Sending inappropriate emails and letters to others

While similar, a quid pro quo sexual harassment case typically involves a direct supervisor or higher up employer who is seeking sexual favors in return for something within that supervisor’s jurisdiction like a raise, promotion, etc.

How To Prove Sexual Harassment

To prove sexual harassment took place, the courts will review the following:

  • The severity and frequency of the actions
  • The timing or context of the conduct to determine whether the behavior is sufficiently severe or pervasive
  • The victim is a member of a protected class
  • The victim has been subjected to unwelcome verbal or physical conduct related to his or her membership in that class
  • The unwelcome conduct is based upon those class characteristics
  • The unwelcome conduct affected a term or condition of employment

Sexual Harassment Hostile Work Environment: Seek Justice

In the age of the #MeToo movement, now more than ever, employers should know to be mindful of such discriminatory, horrific actions. But when it happens, know that your voice and your story matter. Do not let this behavior continue. Let Brown Kwon & Lam represent you in your sexual harassment case. Contact us today.