How to Identify a Hostile Work Environment

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A hostile work environment is a place of work in which the words or actions taken by the employer, a supervisor/manager, or a co-worker (or multiple individuals in the workplace) negatively impact another employee’s ability to do their job. But how do you know when a “negative” work environment or “unlikable” work environment takes that final step and officially becomes a “hostile” work environment?

How to Identify a Hostile Work Environment:

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) recognizes a work environment as hostile when it meets certain legal criteria:

1. Negative Treatment: Unwelcome conduct or harassment occurs (based on race, sex, pregnancy, religion, ethnicity, disability, age, or genetics).

2. Extensive Time without Improvement or Change: The harassment/unwelcome conduct is long-lasting.

3. The Severity of the Bad Conduct: The harassment/unwelcome conduct is severe enough to be recognized as intimidating, offensive, or abusive.

How to Legally Establish that a Workplace is Hostile:

In order to legally establish that a work environment is hostile, an employee must be able to show that the words and actions of a coworker or manager make it impossible effectively complete their job duties. The individual accused of creating the hostile work environment must show behavior consistent with discrimination as defined in The Civil Rights Act of 1964 and regulations maintained by the EEOC. The legal definition is that discrimination describes a behavior targeting someone of a protected class (so the discrimination occurs based on gender, gender identity, race, age, disability, sexual orientation, religion, etc.)

When is an Employer Responsible for a Hostile Work Environment?

In many cases of hostile environments, the management or the employer themself either witness the harassment or have been notified of the situation. Once harassment or a hostile work environment or discrimination is reported, it’s generally the employer’s responsibility to resolve the situation in a timely manner. If the employer is aware of the situation, but they ignore it or handles it badly, the employer becomes liable for fostering the hostile work environment or allowing it to continue to the detriment of their employee.

If you need help meeting the burden of proof for a hostile work environment claim, get in touch with Moss Bollinger, Sherman Oaks, California employment law attorney. He's dedicated to protecting and asserting the rights of his clients. Call 866-942-7974 today for a free consultation or contact us online. 

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