Harassment, rights and frat-style workplaces

On Behalf of | Jul 26, 2021 | employee rights |

New York City is host to some of the biggest companies in the world, and it is one of the media capitals of the world as well. Companies know all their announcements will be covered. New York is also home to plenty of financiers looking for the next big thing, and recent graduates eager to make their mark on the world gravitate there. That’s great for startups. But the downside of startups can be a culture that’s steeped in illegal harassment.

Frat boy culture in tech

Many tech companies pride themselves on having a non-traditional feel. In many cases, there’s a lax dress code. There are game rooms where people can blow off steam and bounce ideas off one another. There are also sometimes lots of alcohol in the office. All of this has contributed to a frat-type feel in many of these spaces. This has led some employees to believe that frat-style behavior is acceptable.

Employment law protects people’s rights in the workplace. They can’t be discriminated against, based on protected characteristics. And a hostile workplace is grounds for a lawsuit. Some tech companies that have become household names, including Zillow, show evidence of systemic sexism. For example, male employees there demanded sexual favors from at least one woman. They also sent her inappropriate photographs and openly discussed her appearance, including her breast size.

If you’ve been the victim of this kind of workplace harassment, going to human resources can be a false comfort. HR departments are meant to insulate companies from lawsuits, not to help employees. In some cases, they may even become victim-blamers. By contrast, an attorney’s job is to advocate for their client and their client’s interest