What Conditions Legally Qualify As A Hostile Work Environment?

By: Gregg Zeff
On: June 29, 2023

Hostile Work Environment Law

What Is The Legal Definition Of A Hostile Work Environment?

A hostile work environment occurs when an employee’s ability to perform their work is interfered with by discrimination, harassment, or retaliation or other acts on the basis of their race, gender, religion, disability, age, or other characteristics depending on the law. A hostile work environment refers to a negative work atmosphere, whether it is created by coworkers, supervisors, or the company’s culture.

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What Are The Three Types Of Possible Harassment In A Hostile Work Environment?

Three types of harassment possible in a hostile work environment are:

  • Verbal/written harassment
  • Physical
  • Visual

These types of unwelcome behavior lead to an employee to feel uncomfortable, intimidated, or scared as a result. Harassment that is purposeful and happens on a consistent basis, or that occurs in a single severe event can equate to a hostile work environment.

What Are Some Examples Of A Hostile Work Environment?

There are several common examples of the types of working conditions that constitute a hostile work environment. Many cases share these commonalities:

  • Discrimination: Employees who are refused promotions, who receive unequal pay, or who are being denied opportunities due to age, gender, or some other protected characteristic.
  • Sexual Harassment: Unwanted sexual advances, sexual jokes or comments, displaying or sharing sexually explicit material, and vulgar coments about an employee’s sexual orientation are examples of sexual harrassment.
  • Racial Harassment: Employees targeted based on their race or ethnicity. One example would include an employee who is the recipient of racial slurs.
  • Aggressiveness: This type of environment creates an atmosphere of fear, intimidation, and tension. An example would be a supervisor gets angry and verbally ridicules an employee or physically shoves the employee.

Hostile Work Environment

What Is Not Considered A Hostile Work Environment?

There often is a discrepancy between a hostile work environment and an unpleasant workplace, and many employees confuse the two. An unfriendly supervisor, other obnoxious employees, or feeling underpaid all would constitute an unpleasant workplace, but would not be considered illegal.

Can I Refuse To Work In A Hostile Environment?

You can refuse to work in a hostile work environment, but an essential component of doing so should include filing a report with your employer documenting your exposure to the hostile work environment. Once you have formally reported this to your employer, they may not retaliate in any such manner which is also unlawful. If in fact you believe such retaliation was directed towards you to force your resignation, your employer may be found to have committed constructive termination, hence you could move forward with a hostile work environment case.

What Must An Employee Making A Hostile Work Environment Claim Prove?

If you feel you have been subjected to a hostile work environment, you must prove that the behaviors or actions were unwanted and of a discriminatory nature. You also must show that these actions were carried out over a period of time and with a significant degree of severity. The following steps are critical in building a successful hostile work environment claim:

  • Notify and file a report with your employer’s internal complaint system
  • Obtain evidence and keep thorough documentation
  • Gather witness information and support
  • Obtain and keep proof of the negative impact of the hostile work environment
  • Seek legal assistance

Contact Zeff Law Firm If You Have Been Forced To Work In An Hostile Work Environment

If you believe you are a victim of a hostile work environment, put the experienced team at Zeff Law Firm to work for you. At Zeff Law Firm, our experience of ligating hostile work environment cases brings over 30 years of expertise from our veteran team. Contact Zeff Law Firm to advocate for your rights and help you receive the compensation you deserve.

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