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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, Rockland County, New York and mid-town Manhattan, we serve clients throughout Northern New Jersey and the New York City metropolitan area.

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Neil H. Deutsch
Senior Partner

About 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…

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Bruce L. Atkins
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About Robert J. Pantina joined the firm in 2018. Mr. Pantina received his B.A. from Rider University in 2008. He received his J.D. from the Elisabeth Haub School of Law at Pace University in 2017. While in law school, Mr. Pantina interned for the Hon. Bonnie J. Mizdol, Assignment Judge of the Superior Court of…

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