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

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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

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 4 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.


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