Your employer has a legal obligation to provide you with a safe workplace free of hostility and abuse. If you have been subjected to a hostile work environment because of harassment based on your membership in a protected class, you may be able to sue your employer.
However, proving such a claim is complicated because the plaintiff must prove not only that the harassment occurred, but that it was "severe or pervasive" enough to create a hostile work environment. This blog from the experienced employment attorneys at Green Savits, LLC explains how the severe or pervasive standard works and how courts apply it.
What is Workplace Harassment?
Harassment is unwelcome conduct that is based on your membership in a protected class such as:
- Skin color
- Sexual orientation
- Gender identity
What is a Hostile Work Environment?
Courts generally look at five factors when evaluating whether a work environment is actionably hostile. To show a hostile work environment during a lawsuit, the plaintiff must generally prove the following:
- The discrimination was based on membership in a protected class;
- The plaintiff was subject to harassment as a result of the discrimination;
- The employer knew and did nothing or should have known about the harassment;
- The harassment is severe, or;
- The harassment is pervasive
Severe or Pervasive Harassment
The final two steps of that test complicate it and are one of the most challenging hurdles that survivors of harassment face when pursuing a claim. In this context, those terms are defined as:
- Severe: The offensiveness of single instances of harassment. Rape or other violent actions may be severe enough to sustain a claim after just a single incident.
- Pervasive: The frequency with which harassment occurs during a period. Less serious conduct, such as racist jokes or sexual comments, can uphold a claim if they repeatedly happened over a long time.
The severe or pervasive standard complicates cases because there is no uniform rule governing how courts apply it. Some cases, such as Hostetler v. Quality Dining, Inc., found that sexual comments and unwanted touching are severe or pervasive enough to constitute a hostile work environment. Other cases, such as Brooks v. City of San Mateo, did not.
The potential for different courts and different judges to interpret the severe and pervasive standard differently magnifies the importance of hiring dedicated, experienced attorneys such as those at Green Savits, LLC. We can evaluate the facts of your harassment and help you determine if you have a claim. Then, we’ll fight forcefully for justice on your behalf and craft arguments to help show the court how your harassment was severe or pervasive.
Contact Our Florham Park Employment Lawyers Today
At Green Savits, LLC, we have an extensive history of representing employees and protecting them from harassment, hostile work environments, and discrimination. Our lawyers have decades of combined experience fighting for the rights of workers and whistleblowers. We serve Florham Park and surrounding areas of New Jersey. Call (973) 695-7777 today to schedule a consultation.