From a social standpoint, there are quite a few factors that can make a work environment feel hostile. Factors like poor management, an uncomfortable environment, poor working conditions, or unfriendly employees. However, from a legal perspective, there are specific criteria that constitute a hostile work environment. If your work environment is hostile, then you should contact an experienced employment attorney to help you. If you live in the Los Angeles area, then you should contact the Spivak Law Firm to help you.
What Is The Legal Definition Of a Hostile Work Environment?
To meet the legal definition of hostile, a work environment should be more than just a space that you find unpleasant, it needs to have a boss and /or co-workers who make the job extremely difficult, if not impossible. The person who is the victim of harassment does not have to be the one being harassed, it could be anyone who is affected by the general harassment. The following requirements must be met to meet the legal definition of a hostile work environment.
The behavior of the boss or fellow employees is discriminatory towards a protected class. A protected class is a group of people who have special protection by law, policy, or a similar authority. That group is protected because of their race, nationality, religion, gender, and other factors.
The offending behavior must be consistent and long-lasting. An occasional lewd joke or off-color comment is not enough to create the legal definition of a hostile work environment.
The harassment negatively affects the employee’s job performance by limiting their productivity, or causing them to find excuses to avoid going to the workplace altogether.
The employer badgers and pressures the employee into quitting in retaliation to the employee making a complaint about their job. That pressure can include unwarranted disciplinary measures, reduced wages, or cut hours.
Is The Employer Liable When There Is a Hostile Work Environment?
There are some situations where the employer is liable, for example, if the actions of a supervisor results in a tangible employment action such as employee termination, demotion, lack of promotion, or lost wages. The employer is also liable for harassment perpetrated by non-supervisors and non-employees like independent contractors, but only if it can be proven that they knew, or should have known, about the harassment that was taking place and did nothing to stop it.
The employer can try to avoid liability by attempting to prove that they tried to stop the abusive behavior or that the harassed employee did not take advantage of any of the anti-harassment protocols available to them.
What Are The Solutions To a Hostile Work Environment?
There are different ways for an employee to address the problem of a hostile work environment. The first is to confront the person causing the conflict. In many cases, an individual may not have realized that their behavior was considered offensive and stop it when someone else calls it out. If the behavior continues, take note of where and when it occurs and report it to human resources before reporting it to your supervisor, unless of course, your supervisor is the one causing the hostile work environment.
If the employer is aware of the situation and does nothing to resolve it, then the employee has legal grounds to file a lawsuit against their employer. The employee should contact an experienced employment lawyer and file a complaint with the EEOC (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission) and follow their procedures for dealing with discrimination in the workplace.
Do Not Let a Hostile Work Environment Affect Your Job
When there is a hostile work environment, it is up to the employee being harassed to try and find a solution to the problem. Fortunately, there are many different avenues available to employees that can help them to resolve that problem. If said employee takes the problem all the way to their employer and the employer fails to act, then a lawsuit is the only recourse. If that is your final option, then make sure to consult an employment attorney. They can help you to follow the steps outlined by the EEOC, so that the employer can be held accountable for their inaction in fixing the hostile work environment.
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