Talking About Family Court Proceedings

Homophobic Harassment In The New York Workplace: When Can You Sue Your Employer?

Nobody should have to endure hateful slurs and harassment at work, but American gay people must increasingly cope with this kind of conduct. Studies show that between 15 and 43 percent of gay people experience discrimination or harassment at work in the United States. If you find yourself in this position, it's important to know when you can take legal action against a New York City employer. Learn more here.

Legal protection

State and federal laws protect employees from discrimination in the workplace. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 specifically outlaws discrimination against anyone on the grounds of race, color, religion, sex or national origin. While this federal legislation does not specifically call out discrimination against somebody due to their sexuality, most lawyers agree that homophobia is a form of gender discrimination.

New York State and City human rights laws also prohibit this type of discrimination. In fact, New York laws extend the federal law to include more employers and to cover harassment due to sexual orientation and/or gender identity. As such, any type of homophobic abuse in the workplace is illegal.

A hostile working environment

If you suffer harassment or abuse at work, you should first raise the matter with your internal human resources team and/or your immediate line manager. Many companies have robust grievance procedures that will tackle these problems, and many gay workers don't need to take further action.

However, some gay people find themselves in a hostile working environment that remains unchanged. In a hostile working environment, the extent or severity of the abuse is so significant that the worker finds it difficult to do his or her job properly. If the situation remains unresolved, you can sue your employer under anti-discrimination laws.

Employer responsibilities

Under anti-discrimination laws, New York employers must take all necessary action to tackle anything that can lead to a hostile working environment. The actions that an employer may take will vary considerably from one company to another, but courts favor companies that take proactive steps, including diversity training courses, diversity networks, counseling services and written disciplinary policies.

Employers must act on specific complaints. As such, if you take a problem to your line manager, and he or she does nothing about it, you may have grounds to take legal action. However, if you don't report the problem, you may find it harder to sue your company, especially if you decide not to use an established grievance or harassment reporting procedure.

The facts that a court will consider

New York courts will consider various facts when deciding if the employer has illegally allowed a hostile work environment to develop. A judge will consider how often harassment occurs, the seriousness of any misconduct and the effect the abuse has on the plaintiff's work. There's no exact formula or definition. If the circumstances are serious enough, a judge may even uphold a complaint based on one event.

Steps you should take

If you decide to file a discrimination lawsuit against your employer, you'll need to provide evidence to support your allegation. Evidence to consider includes:

  • A personal diary of homophobic events, including dates, times and as much detail as possible.
  • Witness statements and accounts of homophobic events.
  • Copies of any homophobic material, such as emails or notes left on your desk.

Of course, if any of the abuse you receive becomes threatening or if another employee physically attacks you, you should also report the details to the police.

You should also keep detailed records of your attempts to bring the matter to your boss's attention. For example, you should keep all emails or letters you send where you make a formal complaint. Keep copies of any responses you receive, too.

If you suffer ongoing homophobic abuse at work, you may need to consider legal action against your employer. Talk to a civil rights attorney, like those at the Law Office of Faye Riva Cohen, P.C., for more information or advice.

About Me

Talking About Family Court Proceedings

Hello, my name is Bridget Waller. Welcome to my site about family court proceedings. My involvement in family court was not a welcome one. Despite the difficulties experienced during that time, I focused on building my knowledge about family court proceedings rather than let the process bring me down. I created this site to share my knowledge with you all, in hopes that I can help others navigate family court proceedings with ease. I will explore every phase of the court process in great detail to help others better understand the proceedings. Please come by my site regularly to learn more. Thanks.