What is a Hostile Work Environment?
Many individuals have experienced a workplace that they dreaded going to. Often this is not because of the work they had to perform but because of the environment of the workplace itself. Coworkers and supervisors may harass another worker in person or via email, text, or other electronic means. They may continue the behavior even after being repeatedly informed that they are acting inappropriately and being asked to stop. If you’ve experienced a hostile work environment like this, you have legal rights, and your company could be held liable for the actions of its employees.
When Does an Uncomfortable Work Environment Become Illegal?
Unfortunately, under the law, your coworkers do not have a responsibility to like you or even be pleasant to you. However, they must not engage in discriminatory behavior that a reasonable person would find intimidating, hostile, or abusive. So when does the behavior cross the line from being a nuisance to being hostile and illegal? While this can sometimes be tricky to determine, if you face persistent unwelcome conduct due to your religion, race, color, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity, national origin, age, or other protected aspects of your personal identity, this could be considered discrimination.
If your continued employment is dependent on you enduring this treatment or if the discriminatory actions are severe or pervasive, your workplace could be considered hostile. You may even have a case if you are not the person directly experiencing the harassment, but it is affecting your ability to perform your job. Overall, the best way to evaluate whether you have a valid hostile work environment case is to consult with an experienced workplace discrimination lawyer.
What Should You Do if You Are Experiencing a Hostile Work Environment?
Your first step should be to notify a supervisor or human resources about the harassment you are experiencing. They may take appropriate action, and it could stop the situation from escalating. However, in other cases, your complaints and requests may fall on deaf ears. If this occurs, your company could be liable for not taking corrective action. You should carefully document and preserve any proof of the discriminatory harassment. This may include screenshots of texts and email exchanges, copies of reports you have made to supervisors, your personnel file, and eyewitness testimony of conversations. If the harassment has reached the point where you feel physically unsafe, contact the police and do not return to the situation if your safety is at risk.
You may be anxious about reporting how you are being treated because you fear losing your job. However, if you are fired for reporting a hostile work environment, you may also have a case against your employer for retaliation. If you are being subjected to an abusive or intimidating work environment, you should get in touch with a lawyer as soon as possible to learn more about your legal rights and options.
How Can a Lawyer Help You With Your Hostile Work Environment Case?
No one deserves to be discriminated against at work. If this has happened to you and your employer has been informed and failed to take action, they could be held liable. An attorney with experience in workplace discrimination claims can provide an evaluation of your case and guide you through the next steps to help you reach the best possible outcome for your situation. Contact our law office today for a free, confidential consultation: (805)330-3393.