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What constitutes a hostile work environment?

by | May 13, 2021 | sexual harassment |

In many sexual harassment and workplace discrimination claims, the plaintiff must prove that the harassment or discrimination they experienced created a hostile work environment. That phrase means more than working for a boss who is a jerk or having to use outdated equipment. These sorts of things can make your job unpleasant, but legally speaking, they probably are not enough to constitute a hostile work environment.

Hostile work environment defined

By law, a hostile work environment is one in which a manager, supervisor or coworker has made it impossible to do your job. This may be accomplished through the things they say to you, the actions they take, or their general behavior, but the conduct must either be sexually harassing or discriminatory based on certain characteristics. These include your race, gender, age, disability status and country of origin. Also, the conduct must be pervasive enough to be considered abusive. A single incident of sexual harassment or racist speech may not be enough to establish that you were trapped in a hostile work environment. They must happen repeatedly and not be properly addressed by your employer after you report the problem.

At the same time, the misconduct does not have to be as obvious as propositioning you for sex over your objections or insulting you about your race, gender or age. Supposedly innocent remarks and inappropriate jokes can easily contribute to a hostile environment.

Combating a hostile work environment in Cumberland County

If you believe you are working in a hostile work environment, you should report it to your manager or human resources department and give them the chance to correct the issue. Often, employers fail to take such reports seriously. When they do not help, your next step is to contact an employment law attorney.