A hostile work environment can take away all the enthusiasm you have for your job. You might have continually heard offensive comments made by your coworkers or supervisor against you. Still, you do not know whether that is reason enough to file a legal claim against them. Before filing a lawsuit, you need to know your civil rights and their limitations.
When offenses become harassment
Harassment is a form of employment discrimination. According to the U.S Employment Opportunity Commission, harassment is illegal when you feel that your supervisor will fire you the moment you stand up against them. It is also unlawful if the comments made against you are severe and create an intimidating, abusive or hostile environment for you. The following conducts are considered valid for a legal claim:
- Offensive jokes
- Physical assaults or threats
- Offensive objects or pictures
- Interference with work performance
However, employees cannot file a legal claim for slight annoyances. It is not enough to file a claim for unfriendly behavior, as petty slights, annoyances, and isolated incidents (unless extremely serious) are not considered illegal.
Holding your employer liable
If you are confident that you are being harassed at work, you can file a complaint with the Division of Human Rights. You must act quickly, as there is a limited amount of time for you to take legal action in New York. You have one year to file for harassment and three years for sexual harassment.
You do not need to be afraid to file a complaint. If your employer fires you for speaking up, you can file an additional retaliation claim that will protect you from their unlawful behavior. The court may also award you with punitive damages if your case proceeds.