Strides have been made in the United States to create a workplace that provides equal opportunities for all. Unfortunately, workplace discrimination still occurs. Unwelcome comments and harassment can create a hostile work environment. When this happens, you have the right to take action with the legal system.
What Makes a Hostile Work Environment?
A hostile work environment doesn’t mean you have a lousy boss or rude co-workers. Annoyances and isolated incidents, while unpleasant, aren’t illegal. To be unlawful, the conduct must create a work environment that would be intimidating, hostile, or offensive to reasonable people.
What constitutes a hostile environment are unwelcome comments based on gender, race, national origin, religion, disability, or sexual orientation. It’s when co-workers or employers go out of their way to create an uncomfortable environment through behavior, actions, or communication and must be discriminatory. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) outlines discrimination laws and protections from such employment discrimination.
These are key federal laws protecting workers from hostile work environments:
- Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964
- Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (ADEA)
- Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA)
Here some ways a work environment can be deemed hostile:
- Actions must be discriminate against a protected classification (age, disability, race, etc.)
- The actions must be ongoing for some time
- The problem gets worse and impossible to avoid
- It is not investigated by the organization to make the actions stop
- The behavior must be severe and disrupt the working environment
- The employer knew but was negligent in stopping the behavior
What to Do About a Hostile Work Environment
Before considering legal action, the first step is to ask the offending person to stop their actions or communication. They can do this by going to a higher up or by asking the person directly. If the behavior doesn’t stop, asking for your employer’s help is the next step. Employers should investigate the claim, end the hostility, and create a more suitable environment. Having all this documented will help if a lawsuit follows.
Have you been a victim of a hostile work environment because of a co-worker or employer? Have you been experiencing or witnessing pervasive, repeated workplace hostility? If so, you may have grounds for a claim. Contact the law firm at HKM Employment Attorneys LLP today. Schedule a free consultation to get legal advice from experienced employment law attorneys.