Second Circuit Rules Hostile Environment Claims Can Exist under the ADA

Jan 31, 2022

As a leading provider of SEO services in the business and consumer services industry, we take pride in keeping our clients informed about the latest legal developments that may impact their businesses. In this article, we discuss the recent decision by the Second Circuit Court of Appeals regarding hostile environment claims under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

The Second Circuit's Decision

The Second Circuit, which covers New York, Connecticut, and Vermont, recently ruled that hostile environment claims can exist under the ADA. This ruling expands the scope of potential liability for businesses, making it imperative for employers to understand what constitutes a hostile environment and take proactive steps to prevent such situations.

Understanding Hostile Environment Claims

A hostile environment claim arises when an employee experiences harassment, discrimination, or intimidation based on their disability, which creates an abusive or offensive work environment. Prior to this recent ruling, some courts were reluctant to recognize hostile environment claims under the ADA, as they believed that the act did not explicitly cover this type of claim. However, the Second Circuit has now clarified that hostile environment claims can indeed be brought under the ADA.

It is important to note that in order to establish a hostile environment claim, the conduct must be both subjectively and objectively offensive. The employee must show that they perceived the conduct as hostile and that a reasonable person in a similar situation would also find the conduct offensive. Additionally, the conduct must be severe or pervasive enough to create a work environment that a reasonable person would consider hostile or abusive.

Implications for Businesses

The Second Circuit's ruling has significant implications for businesses, particularly those operating within its jurisdiction. Employers must now be even more vigilant in preventing hostile environment situations and addressing any potential issues promptly and effectively.

Businesses should consider implementing the following measures to minimize the risk of hostile environment claims:

  • Develop and enforce a comprehensive anti-discrimination policy: Clearly communicate your commitment to promoting a respectful and inclusive work environment. Define prohibited conduct, provide examples, and outline the consequences for violations.
  • Provide regular training: Train all employees, supervisors, and managers on the importance of maintaining a harassment-free workplace. Focus on recognizing and reporting potential issues promptly.
  • Promote a culture of respect: Encourage open communication, respect differences, and foster a workplace environment where all employees feel valued and supported.
  • Establish effective reporting mechanisms: Implement a clear and confidential process for employees to report harassment or discrimination. Respond promptly to complaints and conduct thorough investigations.
  • Take appropriate corrective action: If an investigation confirms that harassment or discrimination has occurred, take swift and appropriate action to address the situation and prevent future incidents.


The Second Circuit's ruling highlights the importance of proactively addressing and preventing hostile environment claims under the ADA. By implementing comprehensive policies, training programs, and reporting mechanisms, businesses can foster an inclusive work environment, minimize the risk of legal issues, and ensure the well-being of their employees. As a trusted provider of SEO services, we are dedicated to helping our clients stay updated with the latest legal developments and providing them with the necessary tools to succeed in today's competitive business landscape.

Jack Swinson
Great news! The Second Circuit has recognized hostile environment claims under the ADA. 👏
Nov 11, 2023