Many people don’t enjoy going to work, but the difference between an unhappy work situation and a hostile work environment is significant. A hostile work environment is one in which the inappropriate behavior of your co-workers or superiors targets you and interferes with your ability to effectively do your job. This can apply not only to sexually inappropriate comments and actions, but also to workplace harassment that exhibits discriminatory attitudes toward age, gender or sexual orientation.
What Are the Definitions of ‘Hostile Work Environment’?
The California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) is a state law that prohibits workplace discrimination and harassment based on protected characteristics. Under FEHA, a hostile work environment is created when an employee is subjected to harassment based on a protected characteristic, and the conduct is either severe or pervasive enough to create a hostile or abusive working environment.
According to the EEOC, a federal agency, a hostile work environment is created when harassment becomes severe or pervasive enough to alter the conditions of a victim’s employment and create an abusive working environment.
How Do I Prove That My Workplace Is A Hostile Work Environment?
Under California’s FEHA, in order to have a successful hostile work environment claim, an employee generally needs to show:
- Protected status: The employee belongs to a protected class (e.g., race, color, national origin, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, age, disability, or marital status).
- Unwelcome conduct: The employee was subjected to unwelcome conduct related to their protected status. This can include offensive comments, jokes, slurs, or other negative behavior.
- Severe or pervasive conduct: The unwelcome conduct was either severe or pervasive, meaning that it was either very serious or occurred frequently enough to create a hostile work environment.
- Subjective and objective harm: The employee must have perceived the work environment as hostile or abusive, and a reasonable person in the employee’s position would also perceive it as hostile or abusive.
- Employer liability: The employer knew or should have known about the hostile work environment and failed to take prompt and effective remedial action.
Under federal law, hostile work environment lawsuits can violate a number of laws including Title VII of the Civil Rights, the Age Discrimination Act of 1967, and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990.
Some real-life scenarios that could be considered to constitute a hostile work environment include:
- Inappropriate texting/sexting
- Inappropriate or offensive jokes
- Inappropriate or offensive images displayed at work
- Boss propositioning a worker
- Employer looking the other way/expecting a worker to endure harassment by clients
In general, the conduct must be disruptive, persistent, reported, and not stopped by management once it is reported.
The word “inappropriate” is a euphemism at best that fails to describe the full impact an abusive work environment can have on the emotional, mental and even financial well-being of a worker. Everybody deserves a safe working environment free of workplace bullying. Call to speak with nationwide employment law lawyer Todd M. Friedman if you suspect you’re suffering the effects of a hostile work environment.
Yes, I’m In A Hostile Work Environment. Now What?
Some people are concerned that filing a complaint would serve as an invitation for others to investigate and publish details of their private or sex lives. This is not the case: When you work with our team at Law Offices of Todd M. Friedman, we keep your details confidential, using a protective order so that you can feel safe pursuing your legitimate claim. In the meantime, you can take important steps to protect yourself and build the strongest case you can, even before you decide whether you want to file a formal complaint:
- Immediately report any offensive behavior to HR, so there is an official record of your attempt to address the problem.
- Consult your employee manual for a sexual harassment policy.
- Consult a qualified employment law attorney early to get the best possible advice about your situation.
Don’t Suffer In Silence; Stand Up For Yourself And Call Today
A difficult situation often requires a difficult decision about what to do next. Schedule your free initial consultation with nationwide attorney Todd M. Friedman to find out your legal rights and get clarity about your options. Call or
email us to make an appointment.