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When is a work environment hostile?

You may not get along with some of your coworkers or your supervisor. Maybe you find their behavior or attitudes off-putting. But when does annoying behavior cross the line into creating a hostile work environment?

Would a reasonable person find the environment hostile or intimidating?

Hostile work environments exist where a manager or coworkers create an environment that would intimidate a reasonable person. The conduct must be so bad that it would impact a reasonable person’s ability to perform their job duties. Some examples of a hostile work environment include:

  • Behavior that is discriminatory against a protected class of people
  • The offensive actions have existed for a length of time
  • The employer has not taken any steps to investigate or correct the issue

Teasing, name-calling, and other behaviors may be unprofessional, but they may not rise to the level of a hostile work environment. However, some actions that would likely impact a reasonable person’s desire to work at a certain place include:

  • The discussion of sexual topics or sexual harassment
  • Displaying sexually suggestive or explicit pictures
  • Offensive jokes made at the expense of a protected class of people
  • Use of slurs or inappropriate language
  • Directing unwanted comments toward a coworker
  • Engaging in unwanted touching

A skilled professional can help determine whether your workplace is likely to meet the legal standard of a hostile work environment.

You do not have to work in a hostile environment

If the behavior of your coworkers is offensive and impacting your ability to perform your job, you should inform your employer as soon as possible. If you have reached out to your employer and nothing has changed, it may be time to take legal action. No one should have to suffer a hostile and offensive environment in the workplace.