Almost everyone can think of at least a few complaints about their job. For example, they might be doing interesting, meaningful work, but they do not like commuting in rush hour traffic, and the parking garage outside the building where they work is a nightmare, and to make matters worse, parking costs a fortune. Perhaps the unpredictable hours take a toll on your health, but the pay is so good that it is worth it. Maybe the work is dreadfully boring, but you have formed friendships with your coworkers. In fact, good relationships with your colleagues can make up for almost any annoyances in your workplace. An uninspiring cubicle farm layout, a workday bookended by road rage, and even a flaky boss who keeps changing the instructions and deadlines for assignments can be something to take in stride as long as your coworkers and direct supervisors treat you with respect.
If your supervisor or coworkers with whom you interact directly go out of their way to antagonize you, it can interfere with your job satisfaction, even if everything else about your job is going well. In some cases, hostile behavior toward an employee can be a form of employment discrimination, in which case the targeted employee has the right to file a complaint with the Equal Opportunity Employment Commission (EEOC). The Spokane hostile work environment lawyers at HKM Employment Attorneys LLP can help you exercise your legal rights if you are experiencing harassment at work.
When is Rude Behavior Toward Coworkers a Violation of Employment Laws?
Lacking interpersonal skills is not against the law, and only in certain occupations does it count against your professional success. Even in industries that require you to be a people person, you might run into coworkers who behave inconsiderately and lack tact. If your rude coworker is rude to everyone, you probably should not take it personally. If the rude coworker is polite and friendly to everyone else but seems to go out of their way to antagonize you personally, it is worthwhile to talk to human resources about the problem. The most effective managers are skilled enough in conflict management that they can reduce tension among coworkers on their teams.
In some cases, though, a coworker saying unkind things to you on a regular basis is more than simply a case of him or her being rude or lacking professional etiquette. If the rude coworker’s thoughtless comments relate to a protected characteristic of yours (such as your race, sex, or religion), or if the coworker behaves this way to all coworkers who share this characteristic but is collegial toward everyone else, then this is a case of employment discrimination. Likewise, if a supervisor started harassing you after you did something that got on the supervisor’s bad side but was not a breach of professional standards or a violation of company policy, this is a case of employer retaliation. In both cases, you have the right to pursue a discrimination or retaliation claim. It is best to contact a Spokane hostile work environment lawyer before you start the formal complaint process.
What are Protected Characteristics and Protected Activities?
Employment discrimination occurs when an employer or one of its representatives treats an employee unfairly because of a protected characteristic of the employee. The unfair treatment could take the form of harassment, which is also known as a hostile work environment. It could also take the form of adverse actions, which are official penalties that are appropriate responses to an employee engaging in misconduct or performing poorly at work, but which are not appropriate responses to an employee simply being himself or herself. Examples of adverse actions include demotion, unfairly negative performance reviews, or termination of employment, among others. Protected characteristics are stable characteristics of a person’s physical appearance, personal history, or family background. Examples of protected characteristics include ethnic background, religious beliefs, age, sex, family status (such as whether the person is married or has children), and whether the person has ever been in the military.
A hostile work environment counts as employer retaliation if the harassment begins after and because the employee has engaged in a protected activity. The law protects protected activities because they benefit employees while imposing obligations on employers, so without these protections, employers could easily intimidate employees out of exercising their rights to engage in protected activities. Examples of protected activities include using Paid Family and Medical Leave (PFML), without or without Family and Medical Act (FMLA) leave, filing workers’ compensation claims, and requesting accommodations for a disability. Even more troublesome to employers are the protected activities where the employer’s actions could land the employer in legal trouble. These include reporting workplace safety hazards to the Occupational Safety and Health Association (OSHA), reporting crimes to law enforcement, and filing discrimination claims with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). Harassment in response to the above whistleblower actions is disappointingly but not surprisingly common.
Working With an Employment Lawyer to File a Claim About Workplace Harassment
If you are experiencing harassment in the workplace, it is never too soon to contact a Spokane hostile work environment lawyer. Any mistake that you make in reporting the harassment can jeopardize your chances of recovering compensation in the event that your case progresses to the lawsuit stage. For example, before you can file an employment discrimination lawsuit, you must meet with an EEOC counselor who will ask you relevant questions about discrimination in your workplace before beginning a formal investigation into your claims. You can only file a discrimination lawsuit in court if you receive authorization from the EEOC after its investigation. The deadline for contacting the EEOC is 45 days after the most recent incident of discrimination occurred.
Contact HKM Employment Attorneys, LLP About Hostile Work Environment
The Spokane employment lawyers at HKM Employment Attorneys, LLP can help you if your employer has made you a target of harassment after you engaged in a protected activity. Contact the employment lawyers at HKM Employment Attorneys LLP in Spokane, Washington, to set up a consultation.