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What Behaviors Are Considered Criteria for a Hostile Work Environment?

what behaviors are considered criteria for a hostile work environment

Hostile work environment is a serious concern in many workplaces across New York – impacting employees mentally as well as physically. Hostile work environments are often characterized by pervasive harassment, discrimination, and other forms of mistreatment that create an intimidating atmosphere for the employees. It can lead to decreased job satisfaction, increased stress, and even physical health problems for the affected employees.

If you’re experiencing a hostile work environment, it’s crucial to know that you have rights and legal options. At Levine & Blit, we have extensive experience in handling different types of hostile work environment claims and have a proven track record of successfully advocating for employees like you. We can provide you with the guidance and legal assistance you need to hold your employer accountable.

Call us today at 646-461-6838 to set up a case consultation with a New York hostile work environment attorney at our firm.

👉Also Read: Choosing the Best Employment Lawyers in New York: Your Legal Guide

Hostile Work Environment – Definition

Under New York law, a hostile work environment is created when an employee or a group of employees are subjected to unwelcome conduct based on race, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, national origin, disability, immigration status, or any other protected characteristic covered under the law.

It’s fundamental to note that unlike federal law, New York law doesn’t require a party’s unwelcome conduct to be severe or pervasive to create a hostile work environment. Any kind of workplace harassment, discriminatory behavior, or inappropriate behavior based on a protected characteristic that creates an intimidating or offensive environment for an employee is sufficient to constitute a hostile work environment.

Simply put, if you’re subjected to unwelcome conduct based on a protected characteristic at the workplace, and if the conduct in question is more severe then a petty slight, minor annoyance, or trivial inconvenience, it can constitute a hostile workplace environment under the law.

Hostile Work Environment – Examples

The different types of hostile behavior and offensive conduct that can contribute to a hostile environment in the workplace include:

Verbal Harassment

  • Repeated abusive or derogatory comments or slurs related to your race, gender, sexual orientation, national origin, religion, or other protected characteristics
  • Using threatening language

Physical Harassment

  • Unwanted physical contact like touching, groping, or patting
  • Blocking your path, brushing up against you, or invading your personal space in any other manner
  • Physical assault

Non-Verbal Harassment

  • Displaying offensive or suggestive images, cartoons, or posters
  • Making obscene gestures or facial expressions

Discriminatory Behavior

  • Unequal treatment in job assignments, promotions, or salary based on protected characteristics
  • Excluding you from meetings, projects, or opportunities because of your race, gender, age, or other protected traits
  • Applying company policies or disciplinary actions inconsistently or in a discriminatory manner to target you


  • Demoting, reassigning, or terminating you for reporting harassment or filing a complaint
  • Ostracizing or isolating you for reporting discriminatory behavior
  • Giving unfair performance evaluations or creating unreasonable work demands in response to your complaint

Cyber Harassment

  • Sending harassing or threatening emails, messages, or social media posts
  • Sharing private information or spreading malicious rumors about you online

Sexual Harassment

  • Making unwanted sexual advances or requests for sexual favors
  • Commenting on your appearance in a sexual manner or making sexually suggestive remarks
  • Displaying sexually explicit material or engaging in inappropriate sexual discussions

Do Isolated Incidents of Hostile Behavior Count as a Hostile Work Environment?

It depends. Under New York law, an isolated incident of hostile behavior generally does not constitute a hostile work environment, unless the incident in question is extremely severe.

For example, an off-handed offensive remark might not constitute a hostile work environment, no matter how badly you were hurt by the remark.

On the other hand, a single instance of physical violence or sexual assault can constitute a hostile work environment – even if the offender in question does not have a history of inappropriate behavior and has never harmed you before.

This standard is set to make sure that the law addresses significant and ongoing problems in workplaces, rather than minor and infrequent issues.

Why Bullying Does Not Constitute a Hostile Work Environment in New York

Under New York law, bullying generally does not constitute a hostile work environment, unless it’s targeted at a particular employee or a group of employees and is based on a protected characteristic.

Bullying involves unreasonable and offensive behavior directed at an employee or a group of employees with the intent to intimidate, degrade, or humiliate them. While it is inappropriate and harmful, it doesn’t necessarily provide grounds for legal action, unless it’s based on a protected characteristic.

For example, a manager who frequently yells at his employees, criticizes their work harshly, and makes unreasonable demands can be considered a bully. Their actions can be demoralizing for the employees and create a toxic workplace. Stemming from this, since their actions aren’t tied to a protected characteristic and affect all employees equally, it doesn’t constitute a hostile work environment under the law.

Steps Our Experienced New York Hostile Work Environment Lawyers Can Take to Help You

If you are subjected to hostility in the workplace, there are several steps our New York employment law attorneys can take to help you. These include:

Step 1: Initial Consultation

We will start with a comprehensive consultation to understand your experience in detail. During this meeting, we will:

  • Listen to your account of the hostile behavior you have faced
  • Identify the individuals involved and the specific incidents that have occurred
  • Gather preliminary information about your workplace and its policies

Step 2: Documentation and Evidence Collection

We will guide you on how to:

  • Identify and recognize hostile work environment signs
  • Keep a detailed record of all incidents, including dates, times, locations, and any witnesses
  • Collect any relevant emails, messages, photographs, or other evidence

Step 3: Legal Evaluation

We will evaluate the evidence you have collected to determine the best course of action. This involves:

  • Assessing whether the conduct meets the legal definition of a hostile work environment under New York law
  • Identifying any violations of state and federal employment laws
  • Determining the potential claims you may have and the remedies available to you

Step 4: Internal Complaint Assistance

If you have not yet reported the harassment to your employer, we will assist you in doing so by:

  • Advising you on the proper channels within your organization to file a complaint
  • Helping you draft a formal complaint that clearly outlines the harassment and its impact on you
  • Providing guidance on how to document the employer’s response and any subsequent actions

Step 5: Mediation and Negotiation

We will:

  • Represent you in discussions with your employer to seek a fair and just resolution
  • Negotiate on your behalf for appropriate remedies, which may include changes i workplace practices, reassignment, compensation, or other appropriate actions
  • Ensure that any settlement is in your best interest and legally sound

Step 6: Filing a Formal Complaint

If internal resolution efforts do not succeed, we will help you pursue legal action by:

  • Filing a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) or the New York State Division of Human Rights (NYSDHR)
  • Preparing all necessary legal documents and ensuring they are submitted within the required time frames
  • Representing you throughout the investigation process conducted by these agencies

Step 7: Litigation

If your case proceeds to court, we will provide strong representation by:

  • Filing a lawsuit on your behalf against the responsible parties and your employer if necessary
  • Presenting a compelling case in court, backed by thorough evidence and expert testimony
  • Advocating for maximum compensation and remedies for the harm you have endured

👉Also Read: 5 Most Common Types Of Discrimination In The Workplace

Get Legal Assistance from Our Award-Winning New York Hostile Work Environment Attorneys!

At Levine & Blit, we know how a hostile work environment can impact your mental and physical health and overall quality of life. Our seasoned New York employment lawyers can represent you, take decisive action to protect your rights, and fight aggressively to recover the damages and benefits you are owed.

Your well-being and professional dignity are our top priorities. Call us today at 646-461-6838 or contact us online to schedule a confidential consultation with a top-rated New York hostile work environment lawyer at our firm.

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