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What Constitutes a Hostile Work Environment?

Former Denver Broncos quarterback John Elway and three other employees at his Manhattan Beach Toyota dealership were recently sued for discrimination, harassment, and maintaining a hostile work environment. The suit alleges that Timothy Sandquist, an employee at the dealership, was paid less than his white peers and passed over for raises and promotions. He also claims he was forced to work in a hostile environment because of “rampant harassment and racial slurs.” A lawyer for the dealership denies the allegations.

A hostile workplace environment happens when unwelcome comments or behavior occurs based on someone’s race, sex, or other legally protected characteristics. This behavior must interfere with an employee’s performance or create an intimidating or offensive work environment. Anyone in the workplace can commit this type of harassment. The harassment can be sexual or non-sexual in nature.

Some examples of actions that can cause a hostile work environment include:

  • Staring in a sexually suggestive manner
  • Use of racially derogative words or phrases
  • Touching in way that would make an employee feel uncomfortable
  • Comments about an individual’s skin color or other racial characteristics
  • Telling sexual or lewd jokes
  • Making disparaging remarks about an individual’s gender
  • Sending or forwarding sexually explicit emails or images
  • Negative comments about an employee’s religious beliefs
  • Negative comments about an employee’s age (if that employee is age 40 or over)
  • Negative comments about an employee’s mental or physical impairment

In order to be considered a hostile work environment/harassment, the employee must be a member of a protected class, subjected to unwelcome verbal or physical conduct related to his or her membership in that class, and that unwelcome conduct affected his or her job performance by creating an intimidating or offensive work environment.

To determine whether you have a possible legal claim for hostile work environment, come to our law firm today. With offices in Bergen County, New Jersey and Rockland County, New York, we serve clients throughout Northern New Jersey and the New York City metropolitan area.

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Neil  H.  Deutsch Attorney Photo
Neil H. Deutsch

Neil H. Deutsch has been practicing law for over 35 years and is known as a skilled negotiator in employment and discrimination law. He believes in a bottom-line approach of risk analysis and cost effectiveness for his clients. "Case evaluation is something we take seriously," says Mr. Deutsch who seeks top net dollar for his…

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Bruce L. Atkins
Senior Partner

Bruce L. Atkins is the Senior Managing Partner at Deutsch Atkins & Kleinfeldt P.C., a prominent plaintiff employment law firm in the tri-state area. Mr. Atkins believes employees’ rights should be aggressively pursued when they’ve been wrongfully dealt with by their employers. He brings this philosophy to his practice when considering each case and its…

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Adam J. Kleinfeldt

Adam J. Kleinfeldt joined Deutsch Atkins & Kleinfeldt, P.C. in March of 2015.  He primarily represents individuals in employment litigation such as discrimination, retaliation and whistle blowing matters. He has extensive experience in all phases of the litigation process. Adam has obtained significant results for his clients, including a $525,000 jury verdict in a sexual…

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Debra M. McGarvey

Debra M. McGarvey joined Deutsch Atkins & Kleinfeldt, P.C. in December 2019. She has extensive experience defending employees and employers in state and federal court in employment litigation matters. She has represented clients on various issues arising out of the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (NJLAD), the New Jersey Conscientious Employee Protection Act (CEPA), the…

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Carly Skarbnik Meredith

Carly Skarbnik Meredith, Esq. is a Partner at the firm. Carly has focused her career exclusively in the field of employment law. She has a plethora of experience representing both employees and employers with their employment issues, needs, and concerns. She believes representing both employees and employers has made her an extremely well-rounded client advocate.…


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