Phillips & Associates

Victory in Groundbreaking Hostile Work Environment Sexual Harassment Claim

Phillips & Associates, Attorneys at Law

In June 2018, our firm won a groundbreaking victory that sets an important precedent. The District Court of the Eastern District of New York ruled that a hug-from-behind by a supervisor in the workplace can establish a hostile work environment for sexual harassment claims brought under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Title VII has a high bar for sexual harassment claims, so this is a critical decision for civil rights in the workplace. New York City sexual harassment lawyers can use this decision as a valuable precedent in future cases.

Sexual harassment that creates a hostile work environment is actionable under federal, state, and local laws in New York City. The harassment may consist of innuendoes, jokes, touching, groping, rape, violence, derogatory comments, pranks, and other offensive actions. However, the law that is being applied will determine whether the harassment rises to the level of hostile work environment harassment.

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the New York State Human Rights Law require that harassment be severe or pervasive to constitute a hostile work environment. Pervasive conduct is usually conduct that happens repeatedly. For example, if your coworker repeatedly propositions you and makes lewd remarks, even after you request that he stop, this may be pervasive. Severe conduct can happen only once and be actionable, but the act must be traumatic. For example, if your boss grabbed your breasts, this would likely be considered severe. The ruling that our firm recently won related to hugs from behind, which the court found could meet the standard of conduct that is severe enough to constitute a hostile work environment.

However, the New York City Human Rights Law has more liberal standards in order to incentivize the creation of a zero-tolerance workplace policy against degrading conduct toward members of protected classes. You do not need to show materially adverse employment actions or severe or pervasive conduct to win a hostile work environment claim under the New York City Human Rights Law. Instead, you need to show that the discriminatory actions at issue were not simply a borderline slight but were more than what a reasonable victim of discrimination would deem to be petty slights and trivial inconveniences. It is not relevant whether a statement was isolated. Even a single comment might be actionable. It is crucial, however, that the behavior be motivated by your protected status. You must be able to show that you were treated less well than other employees were because of your sex. The burden then would be on your employer to show that the harassment was a petty slight or trivial inconvenience.

If you believe that you have been a victim of sexual harassment in a New York City workplace, you should consult us. You can contact Phillips & Associates at (212) 248-7431 or through our online form. We handle employment litigation in the Bronx, Queens, Brooklyn, and Manhattan, as well as in Nassau, Suffolk, and Westchester Counties and in New Jersey.

45 Broadway, #620,
New York NY, 10006
Tel: 646-941-7609
Fax: 212-901-2107

Client Reviews
Hands down the best law firm for labor disputes in NYC. Being in the restaurant industry for more than 30 years I can say that this law firm is the number one choice for workers in the restaurant business that need to sue their company for wrongful termination. A special compliment to my lawyer Brittany Stevens. An amazing person and well prepared experienced lawyer. She was professional and empathetic to my case and worked in a time appropriate manner. She never miss a phone call at any hour of the day.The other associates that assisted Brittany were Yusha Hiraman, Eugenio Benvenuto, Kevin Guaranda and Katerina Housos. They were all professional and answered any questions or concerns that I had. Brittany and her team helped me with what I needed, when I needed it. I want to thank them all (especially Brittany), for a job well done. Massimo
Jesse Weinstein handled my discrimination case. He was extremely patient and understanding throughout the process and remained professional and consistent even when I could not. I really felt like he had my back and I didn't have to worry. His expertise, combined with the experience of the Firm, resulted in the best possible outcome of my case. Although I wouldn't wish what I went through on anyone, things do and always will happen and I would highly recommend Jesse and this Firm to anyone facing discrimination or other workplace issues. Karen
I was a client with this law firm. I can't stress enough how awesome and professional the people are here. Silvia & Erica made me feel so comfortable and welcome. I never had to guess anything. Anytime I call, emailed, or even texted. They were always there. If not they would get back to me as soon as possible. My case was not an easy situation for me but I tell you these guys made it seem like it was. I'm so glad that I use Phillip & Phillip. I thank you guys from the bottom of my heart. I am so grateful to have met such awesome, honest, and caring people. Thank you again. Djuana
I highly recommend Parisis (Gerry) Fillippatos with Phillips & Associates to represent you for employment related matters. He and his team were professional, attentive to every detail and brilliant at identifying the legal grounds to win the case. Parisis's communication and delivery were highly articulate and precise. He is personable and makes you feel comfortable in the maze of legal jargon. Finally, his confidence, perseverance and masterful negotiation skills deliver the win. Anonymous
I had an excellent experience with this team! Thanks, Marjorie, Brittany, and Candy for your great support and prompt answers to all my questions. I highly recommend this firm. This team works very hard and I am extremely happy with the results. Ana