How to Document a Hostile Work Environment

New York City Employment Discrimination Lawyer

It's important that you document a hostile work environment, meaning any comments or actions or touchings that you feel are inappropriate. These types of comments, in order for them to be actionable, have to be based on either your race, your gender, your sexual orientation, or another type of protected category. It's important that these actions or these comments that are being made be documented whether or not you think that there's anything there or whether or not you ever even plan doing anything about them.

And the type of information that you want to make sure that you're including is the date, time, the circumstance, where it took place, who said it, what they said, the gist of what they said. If you remember any quotes, you should include the quotes. You should also include any witnesses that were there. What were the witnesses' reaction? Did they object in any way to what was going on? It's also important that you also log your own feelings about what took place. Over time, these are things, these are details that may fade away, but as you continue to keep the log and you're able to refer back and reflect, it will remind you of the circumstance that you are recording.

Discrimination Lawyers Serving New York City Workers

One common type of employment discrimination claim is based on a hostile work environment, which may arise in a variety of situations. If you are wondering how to document a hostile work environment so that you can assert your rights in a lawsuit against your employer, the New York City discrimination attorneys at Phillips & Associates can offer sound legal counsel. Watch the video on this page or read below to find out more information.

A Hostile Work Environment Is Illegal

Often, discrimination or harassment in the workplace starts slowly. The perpetrator may initially make a few offhand remarks that trouble you, but they may not be so egregious that you are upset by them. However, the misconduct may escalate so that it becomes frequent or pervasive. A hostile work environment is a situation that occurs when the workplace is filled with improper comments, behaviors, materials, interactions, or other conduct that is wrongfully based on an individual’s: race, gender, national origin, sexual orientation, disability, or another protected trait. The comments may also be sexually explicit, leading to a claim of sexual harassment. You don’t have to be fired in order to have a claim for a hostile work environment.

Hostile Work Environment

In most cases, a hostile work environment does not arise from a single incident. For example, asking a co-worker out once or making a single joke that appears to relate to a co-worker’s race is unlikely to constitute a hostile work environment based on harassment or discrimination. However, someone who sexually harasses or habitually gropes co-workers, sends emails that contain ethnic slurs, makes comments regarding ones sexual orientation, or posts images of racially charged symbols in the workplace, for example, may create a hostile work environment. Each case is evaluated on an individual basis, but in general, you should make it known to the perpetrator that their actions are unacceptable. Moreover, even someone who is not a direct victim of discrimination or harassment may find that inappropriate conduct creates a hostile work environment. When it happens between two co-workers, the complainant will need to show that the employer knew or should have known about the inappropriate conduct but did not take steps to stop it.

Document the Hostile Work Environment

You should document each instance of discrimination or harassment immediately after it happens, once you suspect that the misconduct is occurring. You should write down exactly what happened in a notebook, including the names of the people involved in an interaction, who saw what happened, any quotes that you remember, and the events.

You should date each entry, and it may be helpful to note any information that could help prove which day the note was written. For example, if your boss made sexual advances toward you or made a demeaning reference to an apparent disability of yours after a meeting with a particular client, you might specify those details in your entry. This creates a contemporaneous record of what happened.

Remember to keep all text messages, emails, and other proof of the discriminatory or harassing behavior. This will be helpful to prove your case. You should provide written notice to your employer to allow for an attempt to correct the situation, and you should keep a copy of the notice for yourself. If you have a verbal conversation with HR to complain about an instance of discrimination or harassment, you should follow up with an email to memorialize the conversation. You should print out your email and any responses so that if these emails are later deleted, you still have a record of them that is easy to access.

Be mindful of any retaliation you may experience for reporting the misconduct. While retaliation is illegal, it doesn’t mean you won’t be fired. Some employers blatantly violate the law. Many of our discrimination and harassment cases include a claim for retaliation.

Consult a New York City Attorney for Your Discrimination Claim

If you are wondering about how to document a hostile work environment, you should consult an employment discrimination or sexual harassment attorney about your situation. At Phillips & Associates, our New York City discrimination lawyers can evaluate your situation and provide vigorous legal representation as appropriate. Contact us at (866) 229-9441 or through our online form to set up a free appointment. We fight workplace misconduct in Staten Island, the Bronx, Queens, Brooklyn, Manhattan, and Westchester, as well as Nassau and Suffolk Counties.

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