Male and female employees both have the right to a hostility-free workplace. Since the second wave of feminism took hold in the United States during the middle of the twentieth century, women’s roles in our society have changed dramatically. Once largely unable to progress beyond the receptionist’s desks, women are now building and leading industry-changing companies throughout the United States and the world.
Despite these advances for women in the workforce, discrimination still exists in some companies and working environments. Discrimination is defined as any behavior that belittles, degrades, or disadvantages a protected group of workers. Men can also experience discrimination in the workplace. Any discriminatory action that is committed on the basis of an employee’s sex or gender is sex discrimination, which can lead to a hostile work environment.
What is a Hostile Work Environment?
A hostile work environment is a workplace where the discrimination against an employee or a group of employees is severe to the point that it causes enough mental, physical, and emotional stress for its victims that they cannot effectively perform their job duties. A hostile work environment is defined as such if a reasonable person can look at the victims’ complaints and agree that the workplace has, in fact, acted in a discriminatory manner toward that employee. There is no legal definition of a hostile work environment – whether or not a particular company qualifies is determined by the neutral party reviewing the case. Isolated incidents of sexist behavior are not enough to have a workplace declared to be hostile. The discrimination must be regularly occurring and damaging to the affected employees for it to earn the title of a hostile work environment.
Discrimination comes in many forms. It can be seemingly innocent behaviors such as making jokes about one sex and its related characteristics and abilities or career-damaging offenses such as refusing to hire or promote an individual because of his or her sex. For example, asking a prospective employee if she plans to start a family within the next few years during an interview or refusing to hire a mother because she has young children is illegal. Another example is frequently making statements like “all men are pigs” or assuming that a male employee has a lesser capacity for certain tasks than his female colleagues.
If you have experienced sex discrimination in your workplace, be sure to document every instance of discrimination as it occurs. Building a substantial body of evidence is key to having a strong case against your employer.
Hostile Work Environment Attorneys Can Help
You have the right to stand up to your employer and rectify any discriminatory situation you’ve encountered. Under RCW 49.60.030, all employees have the right to both a hostility-free workplace and the right to file complaints against their employers without the fear of retaliation. If you’ve been a victim of sex discrimination, call HKM Employment Attorneys LLP at 206-838-2504 to discuss your case and begin working toward a positive solution. Our firm is here to help you and your career.