Ohio employees have the right to work in a safe workplace free from harassment that leads to a hostile work environment. When employers allow a hostile work environment, employees can suffer intimidation, harassment, discrimination, and abuse. A hostile work environment is a workplace that would lead a reasonable person to feel uncomfortable or scared due to unwelcome conduct.
Both federal and Ohio employment laws prohibit employers from allowing a hostile work environment to continue. Your employer must take appropriate actions to stop you from being exposed to a hostile work environment or compensate you for failure to meet its legal obligations to ensure you are not subjected to a hostile work environment.
Fighting for the Rights of Cincinnati Employees
As an employee in Ohio, it is essential to understand your legal rights, including your right not to work in a hostile work environment. If you believe you are required to work in a hostile work environment, you may have a right to file a legal claim for compensation against your employer. The HKM Employment Attorneys can help you understand whether you have a valid claim, the value of your case, and the best legal strategy going forward.
What is a Hostile Work Environment?
Unfortunately, many workplaces are toxic and challenging for employees. However, not all difficult or toxic workplaces rise to the level of a hostile work environment under state and federal law. A hostile work environment happens when harassment or discrimination against employees based on their membership in a protected class occurs. Discrimination and harassment against employees based on their membership in the following protected classes are unlawful:
- National origin
- Sexual orientation
Additionally, sexual harassment can be a form of a hostile work environment because it is based on gender. Other examples of hostile work environments include repeated derogatory comments or bullying based on disability, age, race, or membership in any other protected class.
How Can Harassment Create an Unlawful Hostile Work Environment?
Any type of harassment is unethical, but not all harassment is unlawful under federal and state laws. According to the EEOC, unlawful workplace harassment happens when the person being harassed or witnesses the harassment must endure the behavior to stay employed. The harassment must be severe or pervasive enough that the average person’s work environment would be considered abusive or intimidating.
Sexual harassment can lead to a hostile work environment. Employees can be subjected to a hostile work environment based on sexual harassment, whether in person or remotely. Sexual harassment often includes being exposed to unwanted sexually suggested behavior, such as physical touching, making sexual jokes, showing photos or videos, or invading another employee’s personal space.
Common Examples of Hostile Work Environments
Many types of behaviors can create a hostile work environment, but for an employee to bring a valid legal claim, the harassment must be pervasive and discriminatory. Here are a few examples of behaviors that could result in an unlawful hostile work environment:
- Discriminatory or racist jokes, comments, or ethnic slurs
- Group shaming of one employee
- Intentional sabotage of a person’s work
- Threatening behavior
- Unwelcome touching of any kind
- Sexual harassment
- Making negative comments about an employee’s age
- Intimidating or derogatory references to an employee’s mental or physical impairment
- Comments about an employee’s skin color or racial characteristics
- Negative comments about an employee’s religious belief or lack of religious beliefs
- Making offensive remarks about clothing, body parts, or looks
- Touching in any way that makes an employee feel uncomfortable
- Staring in a sexually suggestive manner
- Telling lewd or sexual jokes, making sexual gestures, or sending sexually explicit content electronically
Remote Employees Can Also Be Subjected to a Hostile Work Environment
Unlawful hostile work environments are not limited to in-person workplaces. With more people than ever working from home, we have seen an increase in hostile work environments for remote workers. An example of a hostile work environment for a remote employee could be other employees forming an online group or chat to exclude them and shame or bully him or them.
Posting photos of a fellow employee online or bowling and employees through social media platforms or chats can also lead to a hostile work environment. Sexual harassment online could involve an employee sending sexually explicit text messages or emails or making sexual gestures in Zoom meetings.
Ohio State Hostile Work Environment Laws
In addition to federal employment laws, Ohio has state laws protecting employees from hostile work environments. To succeed in a hostile work environment claim against your employer in Ohio, you will need to prove each of the following elements:
- You are a member of a protected class
- You were subjected to unwelcome harassment
- The harassment was based on your membership in a protected class
- The harassment was sufficiently severe or pervasive to alter the terms of your employment and create a hostile work environment
- Your employer knew or should have known about the harassment and failed to take corrective actions to stop it
To succeed in a claim in Ohio, you must show that the harassing conduct occurred because of your membership in a protected class. Ohio recognizes the following protected classes: race, color, disability, religion, age (if you are 40 or older), and national origin.
Discuss Your Case with a Cincinnati Employment Attorney
If you believe you have been subjected to a hostile work environment, it is important that you discuss your case with an attorney. Additionally, if your employer has retaliated against you for pursuing a hostile work environment claim for yourself or another employee, you may have a legal claim to compensation.
Pursuing remedies for being subjected to a hostile work environment requires taking multiple steps, beginning with recognizing the hostility and filing a hostile work environment claim. HKM Employment Attorneys are committed to protecting Cincinnati employees from abuse and mistreatment that can lead to a hostile work environment. Contact HKM Employment Attorneys today to schedule an initial case evaluation and learn more about how we can advocate for you and your rights.