Lawyers dedicated to fighting employee injustice throughout New York

  • What is Sexual Harassment in the Workplace?
  • What constitutes a Hostile Work Environment?
  • What constitutes Discrimination at Work?

These are three of the questions most asked by individuals in the workforce today. The Employment Attorneys at the Akin Law Group

Unfortunately, workplace sexual harassment, hostile work environment and employee discrimination run rampant in all forms of businesses across New York. Although most employees don’t understand the terms or know New York employment law, every employee knows when they have been treated unfairly or have been mistreated.

In New York, it is unlawful for an employer or business owner to discriminate against you because of your Race, Religion, Nation Origin (nationality), Color, Creed, Age, Disability, Sex or Sexual Orientation, or because you asked for leave pursuant to the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) or because you asked to be paid the Minimum Wage or Overtime Pay.

The Employee Discrimination often involves one of the following unlawful acts where an employer or business owner:

  • refuse to offer you a job
  • refuse to promote you or give you a raise
  • refuse to pay you the same wage as other workers (often involving women being paid less than men)
  • refuse to pay you the commissions you earned
  • pay you less than the minimum wage
  • refuses to pay you overtime when you work more than 40 hours a week
  • fires you or terminates your employment by forcing you to quit
  • treats you differently and unfairly compared to your coworkers

If you feel that you have been the victim of sexual harassment, a hostile work environment or have otherwise been discriminated against because of your sex, race, national origin, religion, color, creed, actual or perceived sexual orientation, your age or a disability from which you may suffer, the Akin Law Group is here to help you protect your rights. No one has the right to deny you and your family the fruits of your hard work.

If you have been the subject of sexual harassment, a hostile work environment or have otherwise been discriminated against because of who you are, you may be entitled to:

  • Compensation for emotional distress
  • Lost earnings (back pay)
  • Future lost earnings (front pay)
  • The minimum wage or overtime pay
  • Punitive damages
  • Liquidated damages (for minimum wage and overtime claims)
  • Costs and interest
  • Attorney’s fees


Sexual harassment at work is a form of discrimination based on sex (gender) that violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the New York State Human Rights Law and the New York City Human Rights Law. Sexual harassment can consist of many overt and subtle acts and words. Sexual Harassment can start with what appears to be innocent remarks or even compliments like, you look good, you’re so sexy, and end up with rather harsh words like, I like your breast (t – – s), I want to touch you, you get me excited, etc. It is not illegal for someone that you work with to ask you out for dinner or on a date; many people do meet in this manner. But what is not allowed is if you become the target of harsh words, insults, threats, receive unfavorable reviews, or even terminated, fired from your job for refusing to go out with someone. In other words, if any of these advances are unwelcomed, and they persist despite warning, this is the classic definition of sexual harassment.

Sexual harassment is not limited to words alone. Often, an individual can be the target of sexual harassment by being touched on in an offensive or sexual manner without her consent. It is not okay for someone to rub a person’s buttocks or touch their breasts or even try to give them a message or body rub without their consent. Even a single act that is highly offensive may qualify as sexual harassment.


There are other forms of sexual harassment, one of which is known as Quid Pro Quo meaning “give me something for something in return”. By way of example, a supervisor may tell a subordinate that he will give her a raise or a good review only if she goes out on a date with him. Some demands can be even more perverted like demanding oral sex or sexual intercourse for good working conditions, to receive a raise, not to be written-up or to keep a job. Anytime a person’s work or working condition is made contingent upon a sexual act, it is illegal. No one can force you!


Hostile work environment claims are other types of cases involving discrimination in the workplace associated with intimidation, oppression, ridicule and involves offensive words and/or acts. There can be many different forms of acts that cause and create a hostile work environment. By way of example, calling someone that has a dark complexion a monkey, calling woman a bitch, mimicking someone’s accent, calling a Muslim person a terrorist, calling someone Jewish cheap or asking if he has horns, making sexually explicit sounds, brining nude photos or watching pornography on the computer are all acts that can intimidate and seriously disturb other individuals that are working to such an extent that one would conclude the work place to be permeated with a hostile work environment. People trying to earn a living have the right to work in an atmosphere that is free from such cruel and unacceptable comments and acts. Anyone that feels that their work conditions have been made hostile in this manner should consult with an attorney immediately.


Discrimination at a person job can take many different forms and maybe for various reasons. In short, it is illegal for anyone to discriminate against an employee or workers because of the person’s characteristics like: race, religion, color, creed, age, disability, sex and sexual orientation. By way of an example (regarding discrimination based on sex) discrimination based on sex is evident when a woman is treated negatively regarding the terms or conditions of her employment compared to a man where the man might be paid a higher wage for doing the same work or the man might be promoted although the woman has more seniority. Sex / Race / National Origin discrimination includes treating an employee or an applicant differently based on the person’s sex, race or national origin. Calling a woman a “dumb blond” or saying “African Americans are lazy” or “Polish people are stupid” are just a few of the stereotypical responses that exist although they are absolutely false. Another type of gender / sex discrimination includes unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors and other verbal or physical harassment which occurs because of the employee’s sex. Sexual harassment may be from a man to a woman, from a woman to a man or individuals in the same sex (man to a man or woman to a woman).


Under federal and Article 19 of the New York State Labor Law (the Minimum Wage Act) employees must be paid a minimum wage of $9.00 per each hour that they work. This includes individuals that are paid on a “commission only” basis. The commission must be set and arranged in such a manner so that the hourly wage earned does not fall below the legal requirement. In addition, many employers hire “interns” in an effort to circumvent the overtime laws. The only exceptions are those in the “hospitality industry” like waiters and waitresses that also earn tips in the course of their work. With these workers an employer can use the tips they earned to bring their rate to conform with the minimum wage. In New York State, according to the Hospitality Industry Wage Order, a waiter / waitress shall receive at least $7.50 per hour in wages whereby credit for tips shall not exceed $1.50 per hour, provided that the total of tips received and the wages earned equals or exceeds $9.00 per hour. In any event, if anyone (regardless of classification) is being paid less than the minimum wage (currently $9.00 per hour) they should immediately call an attorney to learn their rights.


Under federal and New York State Laws (as set forth by the Minimum Wage Act) an employer must pay all employee/workers overtime at a rate that is 1 ½ times the employee’s regular hourly-wage. Since the minimum wage is currently $9.00 per each hour that they work, at a minimum every employee that works in New York State must earn at least $13.50 an hour (in overtime pay) for each hour that they work in excess of 40 hours per week. Again, this rate applies to all commissioned workers, interns, those in the hospitality industry, and even to individuals that are paid “off-of-the books” in cash.

Unlike minimum wage, there are exceptions to overtime pay. Not all employees qualify. Although the exceptions are narrowly tailored, employees may be in violation in denying qualified employees overtime, stretching the exception beyond its legal limits. If anyone is working more than 40 hours per week and are not getting paid overtime, they should consult with one of the attorney at the Akin Law Group immediately for a free consultation.


Retaliation is any act that an employer does to adversely affect the work or working conditions of any employee that may have filed a charge of discrimination, participating in a discrimination proceeding, or otherwise opposed discrimination in the workplace. Regardless of whether the Discrimination in the workplace stemmed from a person’s sex, race, color, creed, age, disability, sexual orientation or is related to a claim of Sexual Harassment, a Hostile Work Environment, related to the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) or the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) involving the minimum wage or overtime claims, it is illegal for the employer to retaliate.

Retaliation may take many forms, from terminating (firing or discharging) the employee, to increasing the employees work load, giving the employee unsatisfactory or negative reviews, scolding or treating the employee in a harsh manner, moving the employee to an undesirable location or post, denying an employee a raise or a promotion, or harassing and ridiculing the employee.

The same laws that prohibit discrimination based on race, color, creed, sex, sexual orientation, religion, national origin, age, and disability, as well as wage differences between men and women performing substantially the same work, also prohibit retaliation against individuals who oppose unlawful discrimination or participate in an employment discrimination proceeding by testifying against the employer. These laws also protect employees from other forms of retaliation like coercion, intimidation, threats, and other forms of harassment. If you are the victim of retaliation, contact an attorney immediately to protect your job.


The EQUAL EMPLOYMENT OPPORTUNITY COMMISSION (EEOC), the NEW YORK STATE DIVISION OF HUMAN RIGHTS (NYSDHR) and the NEW YORK CITY COMMISSION ON HUMAN RIGHTS (NYCCHR) are all governmental agencies (Federal, State and City) that are formed to enforce the laws protecting individuals from discrimination, including discrimination at work or on the job for all employees and workers.

Although these agencies are available to the general public, often time filing a claim with these agencies may be confusing and/or involve knowledge of the law. Claims that are filed may have binding effects on the employee and may be detrimental to a full recovery if not properly and adequately presented. Most attorneys that practice in the field of employment law, like the Akin Law Group will work closely with these agencies to protect the rights of their clients that have been sexually harassed, discriminated against, retaliated or have otherwise been the victim of unfair employment practices.

Even when considering filing a complaint with one of these agencies, victims of sexual harassment, employment discrimination or wage violations should consult with an employment attorney to help guide them through the maze.

The New York Employment Law Attorneys at the Akin Law Group, PLLC for a free consultation today. No fee unless we recover for you.

The Akin Law Group’s office is conveniently located on Broadway in New York City’s financial district (downtown Manhattan) and is easily accessible by car (FDR Drive or West Side Highway) or public transportation (1, 4, 5 and R Trains). Parking is available at a garage directly across the street on the west side of the building.