Hostile work environment: Things worth knowing

State and federal laws prohibit any form of discrimination and harassment at the workplace. In that context, you may have heard about the term “hostile work environment.” In simple words, if you are subjected to continuous or pervasive harassment based on something that’s invalid, you are probably being asked to work in a hostile work environment. In such circumstances, you may have the right and scope to take legal action, for which you must consult an Employment Discrimination Lawyer. Here are some key details worth knowing. 

Understanding the basics

As an employee, you deserve to work in an environment that’s safe and free from any form of harassment. Making someone work in a hostile work environment amounts to discrimination, as per the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). There are three major components for proving your claim – 

  1. You were made to feel unwelcome or uncomfortable. Suppose you want to prove that you are a victim of a hostile work environment. In that case, you must prove that you were subjected to harassment or were made to feel uncomfortable, which impacted your ability to work productively. This could be something like a co-worker or supervisor making comments at you because you belong to a certain race or are pregnant.  
  2. It should stem or be related to a “Protected Characteristic.” Just saying that you suffered discrimination is not enough. When it comes to proving a case of a hostile work environment, you must have evidence that the harassment was related to a “Protected Characteristic.” This refers to discrimination based on race, color, gender, sex, pregnancy, or disability. 
  3. The conduct is pervasive or severe. Again, your claim should meet the definition of a hostile work environment as per law. Merely because someone passed a comment at your age may not be enough. The conduct must be such that it can be construed as severe/pervasive. 

Other key aspects

Remember that it doesn’t matter who has created a hostile work environment for you at work. It could be the business owner, an employee, or even a co-worker of the same rank as you. You could be dealing with similar circumstances because of a customer too. It is your employer’s responsibility to prevent that from happening, and if you filed a complaint and no action was taken, you may have a case against your employer too. 

Because cases concerning hostile work environments are often so complex, it makes sense to have a team with legal experience in the field on your side.