Harassment in the work place makes an employee miserable. Not only is it wrong, but it can have serious mental health repercussions and also result in ineffective or poor work. It can also be unlawful. This is especially true if you can demonstrate that your employer has allowed you to work in a "hostile work environment."
What Constitutes Harassing Conduct?
California Government Code Section 12940 makes it unlawful form an employer to harass an employee "because of race, religious creed, color, national origin, ancestry, physical disability, mental disability, medical condition, marital status, sex, age, or sexual orientation". In other words, to constitute harassing conduct, it must also be discriminatory based one of the aforementioned classifications.
While there is no explicit definition of harassing conduct, the Fair Employment and Housing Commission regulations provide that it may include:
· Verbal harassment, which may include "obscene language, demeaning comments, slurs, or threats";
· Physical harassment, such as "unwanted touching, assault, or physical interference with normal work or movement";
· Visual harassment, such as "offensive posters, objects, cartoons, or drawings";
· Unwanted sexual advances.
What is a Hostile Work Environment?
Courts have consistently held that even if conduct is considered "harassing" conduct, it does not rise to the level of creating a "hostile work environment" if the conduct is "only occasional, isolated, or trivial." Instead, a court will look at: (1) the nature and severity of the conduct; (2) how often, and over what period of time, the conduct occurred; and (3) the circumstances under which the conduct occurred.
What Must Be Proven to Establish a Hostile Work Environment?
In order to legally demonstrate a hostile work environment, a person must prove all of the following elements:
1. That the employee worked for the employer;
2. That the employee was subjected to "unwanted harassing conduct" because he or she was believed to be a member of a protected class, or was believed to associate with a person from the protected class.
3. The harassment was "so severe, widespread, or persistent" that a reasonable person in the employee's circumstances would have considered the work environment to be hostile or abusive;
4. The employee considered the work environment to be hostile or abusive;
5. The employer or the employer's agents knew or should have know about the harassing conduct;
6. The employer or the agent failed to take "immediate and appropriate corrective action";
7. The harassing conduct was a "substantial factor" in causing the employee harm; and
8. Whether the employee suffered economic or non-economic loss, in the past or in the future.
Contact Moss Bollinger
If you have been victim of a hostile work environment, you may be entitled to damages from your employer. You have a right to work free of harassment and hostility. Employers should be held to task when they ignore your right to a workplace free of harassment, or worse, when they create the hostile workplace. Since 2008, attorneys Ari Moss and Jeremy Bollinger have zealously advocated for the interests of employees against unlawful employer conduct. Call Moss Bollinger. We work on a contingency basis, which means we collect no money up front. Call our office at 800-249-1175 for a free consultation or reach us online.