Tech giant Google recently made headlines after firing an employee who distributed a controversial memo regarding the company’s diversity-based programs and the extent to which it potentially created a sub-optimal corporate culture. Was the company’s decision just a matter of sour grapes? Not according to Google. Known for its seemingly omnipresent search engine, the corporation rather argued that the employee, James Damore, had contributed to a hostile working environment for other employees. Insofar as the circulated memo, for example, challenged the company’s preconceived notions about how gender considerations ought to impact various policies and endeavors, Google became ostensibly concerned that others might be less comfortable on account of the argument expressed by Mr. Damore—who, incidentally, has raised the specter of legal retaliation.
Was Google within its rights to fire Damore? There is certainly a case to be made given what is meant by a hostile workplace.
“There’s no free speech in the private sector workplace,” explained UCLA labor and employment law professor Katherine Stone, per The New York Times. “Clearly, the company was concerned that he was making the environment difficult for people to do their jobs.”
While it is not always the case that confrontation amid employees constitutes hostile conditions, it is certainly conceivable that certain actions or communications can interfere with productivity and—even worse—have a discriminatory effect on those attempting to perform their job duties without undue distraction or hardship. From a company’s standpoint, sometimes one must balance employees’ rights to organize and express disaffection with the status quo and how said expression might otherwise impact working conditions in an unsustainably deleterious fashion.
Issues facing Nevada’s private sector are no different. Is your company concerned that employee actions have created a hostile workplace?
What to Do Amid Worries About a Hostile Workplace
While companies generally may understand that they are not to discriminate against employees directly, the conditions established for said employees matter, too. That means that an employer must be attentive to how employees treat one another. Arguments and tensions are inevitable, but behavior that proves to be sustained and discriminatory is strictly against the law.
As Nevada’s Department of Administration explains with regard to federal law, “Conduct which creates a hostile work environment is illegal only if it is based upon the employee’s protected status as a member of a protected class. In other words, not all harassing behavior breaks the law. It is not discrimination if one employee is rude to another employee just because they have had an argument. However, just because the conduct does not meet the legal definition of harassment or discrimination does not mean that it’s appropriate workplace behavior. Nevada has rules in place which protect employees from unprofessional and inappropriate conduct, even if that conduct does not constitute discrimination.”
Of course, it is in every business’s bottom line interests to assure a relatively harmonious work environment, even where there is requirement for robust exchange or disagreement. But there are legal implications as well when discriminatory impact is on the line.
Seeking a Legal Help Amid Risk of a Hostile Workplace
Not every office or working environment is perfect. Remaining within legal boundaries, however, is absolutely essential. HKM Employment Attorneys, LLP reflects no shortage of national experience and pedigree without sacrificing its Nevada-based expertise. We are committed to representing your interests and providing essential counsel when any employment-related question or dispute arises. In order to arrange an appointment, simply place a call to 1.702.625.3893 or fill out an online form located here.