Phillips & Associates

Hostile Work Environment based on a Noose in the Workplace

Employment Lawyers for Claims Based on Racial Harassment in New York City

Unfortunately, racial discriminant and harassment continues to permeate the workplace. Racially offensive conduct such as use of the N-word and racist paraphernalia such a noose can in the workplace can form the basis of a hostile work environment. While some courts have found that an isolated incident of offensive conduct in the workplace is not enough to constitute hostile work environment, we need to understand the facts and circumstances surrounding the harassment as a whole to determine if a violation exists. The New York City Human Rights Laws (“NYCHRL”) offers its employees greater protection than state or federal law. At Phillips & Associates, our New York City hostile work environment attorneys are sensitive to the embarrassment and stress caused by racial discrimination and harassment. We provide aggressive representation to victims of a hostile work environment.

A Hostile Work Environment Based on a Noose in the Workplace

If you have been the subject of racial ridicule and have been exposed a noose in the workplace this may constitute a hostile work environment. Indeed, numerous courts have determined that the display of a hangman’s noose in the workplace, alone, is sufficient to sustain a hostile work environment claim.

An isolated incident must be extremely serious to be considered a hostile work environment under federal and state laws. While not all courts have agreed that the display of a single noose in a workplace is sufficiently severe to affect the working conditions of African American employees, most courts agree that there is little doubt that ‘the noose is among the most repugnant of all racist symbols, because it is itself an instrument of violence, which immediately calls up its history as an instrument of violence in this country. A consultation with an experienced employment attorney can help you understand your rights. At Phillips & Associates, we have experience in handling numerous cases of a noose in the workplace.

It is not clear how many such instances would be enough to support a claim under Title VII. Sometimes, however, a noose in the workplace may be one of several instances of offensive conduct and behavior, and in those cases, when considering all of the instances together, a hostile work environment is more likely to be created. There may also be a situation in which a single noose would be enough based on the surrounding context. For example, an unambiguously racial epithet has been noted to fall on the more severe end of the spectrum of racial harassment. As one type of harassing conduct gets more severe, fewer occurrences are needed to create a hostile work environment claim. When there is a display of a noose together with additional forms of harassing conduct, such as the repeated use of offensive nicknames, slurs, or racialized images, they can together create a hostile environment.

To prove a racially hostile work environment under federal and state laws, an employee needs to show that a rational jury could conclude that the workplace is permeated with discriminatory intimidation, ridicule, and insult that is severe or pervasive enough to change the conditions of employment and create an abusive work environment. To determine whether actions are sufficiently severe or pervasive, the court is supposed to examine the surrounding circumstances that are alleged, including how often the discriminatory conduct or harassment happened, how severe it was, whether it was physically threatening or humiliating, and whether it unreasonably interfered with the victim's work performance.

Courts also assess whether the work environment has been made both subjectively and objectively hostile or abusive. Generally, it is not enough that you personally believe that the work environment is hostile. Whatever you found hostile must be of a quality that would be deemed hostile by a reasonable employee under similar or the same circumstances.

The New York City Human Rights Law is broader than federal or state laws in its understanding of what a hostile work environment is. In order to establish a hostile work environment under the New York City Human Rights Law, your attorney does not need to show that the treatment was severe or pervasive, but instead they must show that you were treated less well than other employees due to your membership in a protected class. Many courts in New York have determined that the display of a hangman's noose in the workplace alone is enough to support a hostile work environment claim. In fact, courts in New York have found that even a very brief display of a noose can create a hostile work environment.

Consult an Experienced Racial Harassment Lawyer in New York City

The remedies that may be available differ depending on whether you bring your lawsuit under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, the New York State Human Rights Law, or the New York City Human Rights Law. It is important to consult an experienced attorney. Our New York City lawyers are familiar with these types of cases and can advise you on your options for legal recourse if you have faced a hostile work environment based on a noose in the workplace. Call us at (212) 248-7431 or contact us via our online form. We fight employment discrimination in the Bronx, Queens, Brooklyn, Manhattan, and Staten Island, as well as in Nassau, Suffolk, and Westchester Counties and in New Jersey. We offer a free consultation and do not charge upfront fees because we work on a contingency fee basis.

45 Broadway, #620,
New York NY, 10006
Tel: 212-248-7431
Fax: 212-901-2107
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