Harassment in a workplace can turn the environment hostile. A hostile work environment occurs when someone’s behavior, actions, or communication make it impossible to effectively do a job. Threatening and intimidating behavior, harassment, and interference with an employee’s performance are types of hostile conduct.
Not all offenses are actionable. However, a knowledgeable employment law attorney can help you determine if a claim is possible.
Courts use several requirements in determining whether or not a working environment is hostile. These include:
- The actions or behavior discriminate against a Title VII protected classification, such as race, sex, gender, religion, disability, or age.
- It is offensive, continual, and is not swiftly investigated and addressed by the company.
- The acts were severe enough to interfere with the employee’s work, and/or it interferes with the employee’s career ladder progression.
- The employer was aware of what was going on, yet did not take action to stop the behavior. In this case, the employer may be held liable.
- The victim believed he or she had to tolerate the behavior to remain employed.
In the cases of hostile work environments, harassment doesn’t directly result in discipline or lost opportunities. However, it does make it difficult for the victim to work because of constant ridicule, belittling comments, teasing, and sexual come-ons. Also, this harassment could be more subtle. For example, a manager may treat workers of a certain ethnicity better than other workers. This could be if a Jewish employee hears Holocaust jokes or forced to be a bookkeeper due to stereotypes.
Companies typically have strict non-discrimination policies in place to protect itself and its employees. However, if a company is aware of a harassment scenario and fails to stop it or adverse action happened against the complainant, then the court may find the company liable.
Hostile Work Environment Attorney
If you have experienced sexual harassment in any form in the workplace, you should contact a qualified employment attorney as soon as possible. If the harassment has not stopped after making a formal complaint with your employer, consulting a harassment lawyer is your best option. Your attorney will be able to provide further guidance, help you file a claim with the EEOC, and help you build a case that will put an end to what you have experienced.