When people in New York think about sexual harassment in the workplace, they will likely envision quid pro quo harassment. This term describes an owner, manager or supervisor asking for sexual favors in exchange for something like a promotion, raise, more hours or avoidance of termination. A hostile work environment, however, goes beyond clearly stated sexual requests. Indirect actions can create a sexually uncomfortable place to work. Hostility can also include negative attitudes toward other employees on the basis of gender, race, religion or ethnicity. The workplace conditions could even impact employees who are not the direct target of harassment.
Examples of a hostile work environment include a place where men openly share sexual jokes in front of female co-workers and circulate pornography on company computers. When this behavior happens continually and not as an isolated incident, the pattern emerges that could meet legal standards for a hostile work environment.
The hostility arises because employees who feel uncomfortable with the sexual banter, lewd comments and unwanted touching must accept the behavior or leave their jobs. An employer could be liable in this situation if the harassed employees lack a means to report the behavior and have it corrected.
A person who is dissatisfied with an employer's response to a harassment claim could consult an attorney about the problem. The person could describe the behaviors that have allegedly crossed the line and gain the attorney's insights about the legal implications. If a lawsuit appears to be a viable course, an attorney might inform a person about how to collect evidence about the hostile work environment and document behaviors like unwanted sexual advances and retaliation. The attorney could present the evidence at a trial and urge a judge and jury to award compensation for lost wages, career damage and psychological trauma.