Do you feel like your workplace is a hostile environment? If so, you are not alone. Many people feel uncomfortable or even threatened in their place of employment. Unfortunately, many people do not realize they are in a hostile work environment until it's too late. Our Calabasas employment law attorneys discuss what is considered a hostile work environment and three signs that you may be experiencing one.
What Is a Hostile Work Environment?
A hostile work environment is created when an employee experiences discrimination or harassment based on protected characteristics, such as race, sex, religion, or disability. Additionally, a toxic work environment can also be considered hostile if the behavior in question interferes with an employee's ability to do their job effectively.
While any harassment is, of course, unethical and unkind, what takes harassment and makes it unlawful, according to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), is when:
- The person being harassed (or witnesses the harassment) must endure the behavior to stay employed.
- The harassment is "severe or pervasive enough" that the environment would be considered intimidating or abusive to an average person.
There are many signs and warnings an employee may experience in a hostile work environment.
Sign #1: You regularly feel intimidated or threatened by a coworker or supervisor.
If you feel fear or discomfort in your workplace due to the actions of a coworker or supervisor, this could be a sign that you are in a hostile work environment. It is important to note that feeling intimidated does not necessarily mean physical threats; emotional manipulation can qualify as intimidation.
Sign #2: Offensive or discriminatory language and behavior are common in your workplace.
If your workplace frequently uses slurs or jokes that target protected characteristics or coworkers regularly engage in offensive behavior, this can contribute to a hostile work environment. This may include :
- Derogatory or demeaning comments about a person's race, sex, religion, disability, or other protected characteristic.
- Displaying offensive or discriminatory images such as posters or photos.
- Making jokes or teasing related to a protected characteristic.
- Repeatedly asking someone about their protected characteristics (such as repeatedly asking about their religious beliefs or sexual orientation).
Sign #3: You have been the victim of physical abuse or threats of physical harm.
Physical abuse and threats of physical harm clearly show that you are in a hostile work environment. If you have experienced or witnessed this behavior at your workplace, it is essential to report it immediately to HR or a supervisor. Physical assault should also be reported to the authorities. A police report can be useful if you decide to file a lawsuit against the perpetrator or your employer.
If you believe that you are experiencing a hostile work environment, it is important to document the behavior. Keep track of dates, specific incidents, and any witnesses to the harassment. Discussing your concerns with a trusted coworker or supervisor may also be helpful. Finally, consider speaking with an experienced employment law attorney about your situation. You have rights in the workplace and do not have to endure a hostile work environment.
Gaines & Gaines, APLC Can Help You Navigate Your Hostile Work Environment
A hostile work environment can severely damage your physical and mental well-being and your career. If you believe that you are experiencing a hostile work environment, contact our seasoned team at Gaines & Gaines, APLC. Our Calabasas employment law attorneys have the knowledge and experience to guide you through the intricacies of the law and protect your rights.
Contact us today by calling (866) 400-4450 or filling out our website contact form.