If you are like most people, you have probably had a boss at some point in time that you didn’t like. If you have ever worked for somebody who has anger issues, you might understand how spending a day at work can leave you feeling drained. While treating employees poorly is unprofessional, it can sometimes also cross the line into illegality. The employment lawyers at Swartz Swidler can help people to determine whether their bosses’ actions are illegal or not.
Hostile work environments
While you might think that the phrase hostile work environment refers to something subjective, the law is fairly clear in how it defines a hostile work environment. If your boss regularly rants loudly, screams, and yells, his or her behavior is not necessarily unlawful. However, your boss may cross the line into illegality if his or her outbursts meet the following criteria:
- Your boss targets members of protected groups for his or her outbursts;
- Your boss’s behavior is so extreme that the terms and conditions of your job or those of a group are changed; and
- You or other members of the protected group have complained about your boss’s outbursts, but the company has done nothing.
Pattern of discrimination
To be illegal, your boss’s behavior must be based on a discriminatory intent. Under state and federal law, discrimination that is based on your membership in a protected class is illegal. Protected classes include people in the following categories:
- National origin
- Genetic information
- Age for people who are 40 or older
If your boss’s outbursts include sexist language, racist slurs, or other derogatory actions that are directed towards a specific group of people, his or her behavior may be discriminatory in nature.
Working conditions are unbearable
In addition to your boss’s outbursts being discriminatory in nature, your working conditions must also be negatively impacted by his or her behavior. However, a hostile work environment doesn’t just mean that the conditions are unpleasant. Instead, the behavior has to be so pervasive and severe that it interferes with your ability to do your job or prevents you from moving ahead in your career.
A single incident in which your boss behaved badly may not be enough to prove a hostile work environment. Instead, there normally will need to be evidence that the incidents were repeated and that the consequences of the incidents were severe.
Your company did nothing
You must have complained, and your company must have had the opportunity to correct the problem before you can move forward with a lawsuit. Some businesses will ignore worker complaints and try to sweep problems under the rug instead of confronting senior employees about their bad behavior.
In addition to your supervisor, customers or coworkers can also be responsible under certain circumstances for creating a hostile work environment. If you believe that the behavior of your boss, coworkers, or customers has been targeted at you because of your protected characteristics has created a hostile work environment for you, it is a good idea for you to talk to an employment lawyer. Call Swart Swidler to schedule a consultation so that you can learn more about your rights.