The attorneys at the Akin Law Group, PLLC, serving Manhattan and the surrounding boroughs, Westchester and Long Island, have extensive experience representing victims of sexual harassment and other discrimination in the workplace. We wish to help you by providing information about workplace harassment. The following are some frequently asked questions and answers about sexual harassment and hostile work environments:

Sexual harassment

Employment Discrimination

General questions

Contact the attorneys you want on your side

If you are subjected to sexual harassment or a hostile environment at your workplace, call the Akin Law Group, PLLC at 866.685.5163 or contact the firm online for a free consultation. There is no attorney fee unless the firm recovers for you.

Sexual harassment questions

What is harassment?

Harassment consists of behavior that gets in the way of a person’s work and responsibilities. The law protects employees from being harassed based on characteristics such as race, gender, national origin, and sexual orientation. Harassment can be carried out by supervisors, bosses, coworkers, temporary workers, and clients just visiting a place of employment, and it includes verbal comments, unwanted behavior, touching, and more.

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Is an employer responsible for workplace harassment by a nonemployee?

Employers may be responsible for sexual harassment by a nonemployee if the employer or supervisor knew or should have known of the harassment, failed to take immediate and appropriate action, and had some degree of control over the nonemployee.

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How bad must a hostile work environment get before I should complain?

Employees should notify an employer whenever they reasonably believe that they are victims of harassment. If the conduct is severe, it may be enough that it occurred only once. If the conduct is less severe, but occurred over an extended period of time, it may also be sufficient evidence for a court.

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Is an employer liable for hostile environment harassment?

This depends on who has created the hostile environment. The employer is liable when supervisors or managers are responsible for the hostile environment, unless the employer can prove that he or she exercised reasonable care to prevent and promptly correct harassing behavior and that the employee unreasonably failed to take advantage of any preventive or corrective opportunities the employer provided.

When coworkers or customers create the harassment, the employer is liable if it is negligent in addressing the problem. If the employer knew or reasonably should have known of the harassment and failed to take prompt and effective remedial action to end the harassment, then the employer may be liable.

Remedial action usually requires prompt investigation and corrective action. The employer’s action should be in proportion to the severity of the offense. Employers are not required to terminate alleged harassers in all situations. Employers must address employee harassment complaints and are not excused from acting on the basis that the harasser did not corroborate or denied the complaint.

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Questions about discrimination

What is a protected characteristic?

An employer can’t make decisions based on protected characteristic. Protected characteristics include:

  • Age (40 and older)
  • Race
  • National origin
  • Gender
  • Religion
  • Disability
  • Pregnancy
  • Sexual orientation

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Can my employer fire me because of my religious beliefs?

Employees are generally protected in the workplace from discrimination due to sincerely held religious beliefs, but there are exceptions. Courts use a two-step process to evaluate a claim of religious discrimination:An employee bears the initial burden of demonstrating what is called a “prima facie” case of religious discrimination. The employee meets that burden by demonstrating that he or she:

  • Holds a sincere and genuine religious belief that conflicts with an employment requirement
  • Has informed the employer of the conflict
  • Was discharged because of a conflict with that employment requirement

Once the employee establishes a prima facie case, the burden shifts to the employer to show that it cannot reasonably accommodate the employee without undue hardship in the conduct of its business. The reasonableness of an accommodation is determined on a case-by-case basis.

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What must I prove in an employment discrimination case to achieve a successful outcome?

A plaintiff must show that:

  • He/she was qualified to do the position or job
  • He/she was discharged, not hired, or unfairly treated at work
  • The unfair treatment occurred because of a protected characteristic, such as age (over 40), gender, minority, disability, and so forth.
  • He/she was replaced by or treated differently from someone else
  • The employer’s proffered reason for discharging the employee or treating him/her differently was false and merely a pretext for the real discriminatory reason

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In addition to hiring, what other aspects of the employment relationship are regulated by the antidiscrimination laws?

Laws regulate all aspects of work, including hiring, firing, promotions, job duties, wages, benefits, and reviews. Generally speaking, the employment laws do not require an employer to provide specific benefits, institute job review procedures, or draw up job descriptions. The employer is allowed to establish its own policies, as long as they are applied to all employees in a nondiscriminatory manner and as long as the policies do not discriminate against anyone because of a protected characteristic.

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General questions

Can my case be settled without litigation/without a trial?

Yes. We may be able to negotiate your case or settle it through mediation. As experienced New York sexual harassment and discrimination attorneys, the Akin Law Group always explores the possibility of mediation while preparing for litigation.

Although most workplaces have grievance policies in place to deal with sexual harassment issues, often, these policies do not prevent a person from sexually harassing another.

If you have been the victim of sexual harassment, you should seek the advice of the experienced sexual harassment attorneys at the Akin Law Group, PLLC. They can advise you about your options for recourse, including:

  • Mediation (for a settlement before litigation) or
  • Initiating a sexual harassment lawsuit

The Akin Law Group, PLLC strives to achieve the best possible resolution for each client’s case. Working diligently to bring about fair settlement awards for clients or to litigate for a just verdict; the firm’s attorneys are highly experienced in employment law and have in-depth knowledge of federal, state and New York City local laws. We build a strong case for each client, highlighting the essential facts while maintaining a personalized and discreet approach.

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