Can I collect unemployment if I quit due to hostile work environment?

UPDATED: Oct 1, 2022

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Can I collect unemployment if I quit due to hostile work environment?

I work for a law firm in N.Y. I have been experiencing racism and sexual
harassment at my job, as well other things that make me very uncomfortable. I
have not reported the racism because before when i did say something about the
sexual harassment I was ignored. If I quit my job can I still apply for
unemployment and get it even though I did not make a formal complaint to my job?

Asked on November 17, 2017 under Employment Labor Law, New York


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 5 years ago | Contributor

No, quitting due a hostile work environment is still quitting or leaving voluntarily--you would not be eligible for unemployment. Under "employment at will," there is no right to a non-hostile environment: work can be demeaning, demoralizing, unfair, cruel, etc. and your recourse, as an employee, is to put up with it or find other work.
That does not mean that you don't have recourse, however. Sexual and racial harassment or discrimination is illegal. If you report it to your employer and they fail or refuse to take appropriate action to investigate and stop it, the employer becomes liable for employment discrimination. At present, you may have a claim for the sexual harassment, but not for the racial discrimination, since you never reported the latter. 
You may wish to make sure that you have documented both forms of harassment to your supervisor *in writing*, especially some way you can show he/she received it (e.g. email). If the employer does not take action, contact your state equal/civil rights agency or the federal EEOC about filing a complaint. You may be entitled to compensation.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.

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