If you have a workplace that is unpleasant or have to deal with a rude boss or coworker, you might believe that your workplace is hostile. However, a hostile work environment involves more than simply dealing with rude people at your job. Workplace environments must meet a number of criteria before they will be considered to be unlawful hostile work environments. The employment attorneys at Swartz Swidler can help people to understand whether the treatment that they are receiving at their jobs constitutes a hostile workplace.
What is a hostile work environment?
A hostile work environment is one that occurs because of the actions, behavior, or communications of a coworker or supervisor. These actions must be continuous and frequent enough that they make it impossible for you to do your job. This means that the actions of your coworker or boss must be severe enough that the conditions and terms of your job are altered.
In addition, the actions must be discriminatory in nature. This means that they must be based on your protected characteristics such as your sex, color, race, age if over 40, national origin, pregnancy, disability, or religion.
Other types of behavior that are not discriminatory in nature are not unlawful no matter how annoying they might be. For example, if your boss frequently yells at work, it is not considered to be a hostile work environment unless he or she targets workers because of their membership in a protected group.
If your boss or a coworker continues to engage in discriminatory behavior on a frequent basis, it may be unlawful if you have complained. The first step that you must take to address such behavior is to ask the abusive person to stop.
The legal requirements for a hostile environment
To prove that you have suffered from hostile environment harassment, you must be able to prove the following elements:
- The behavior or actions must be discriminatory in nature;
- The behavior or actions must be pervasive and frequent over a period of time;
- Your employer does not investigate or address the behavior after you have complained; and
- The behavior and actions are severe enough to create a hostile work environment.
Even if your employer did not engage in the discriminatory actions, communication, or behavior, your employer may be liable if nothing was done to put an end to it.
What to do if your workplace is hostile
If you are dealing with a hostile work environment, you should start by telling the offender to stop. If you are nervous about doing this, ask your manager or human resources for help.
Telling the offender to stop places him or her on notice that you will not tolerate his or her behavior. In most cases, this is enough to stop the behavior. However, if the offender persists, your next step is to file a formal written complaint with your employer according to the harassment policy at your job.
Your employer should then investigate your claim. If it finds that the behavior constitutes harassment, your employer should take appropriate action to put an end to it. If your employer fails to investigate it or to take any steps to correct it, you can then file a harassment charge with the EEOC if the harassment was based on a protected characteristic.
Contact Swartz Swidler
If you believe that you are dealing with an illegal hostile work environment, it is important for you to understand how to correct this. To learn more about your rights, contact Swartz Swidler today to schedule a consultation.