A workplace is legally required to be a safe and comfortable place to work, free from discrimination and harassment. While one-time annoyances do not legally constitute a hostile work environment, you are protected by law if the primary motivation for creating or allowing an unhealthy workplace is discrimination based on the illegal motive of your race, sex, gender, disability, religion or age.
What is a hostile work environment?
According to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, “harassment is unwelcome conduct that is based on race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy), national origin, age, disability or genetic information. Harassment becomes unlawful when enduring the offensive conduct becomes a condition of continued employment, or the conduct is severe or pervasive enough to create a work environment that a reasonable person would consider intimidating, hostile, or abusive.”
A hostile work environment can be created by a boss, manager, or co-worker. The actions, communication or behavior of this person must be serious enough to impede you from doing your job.
Examples of a hostile work environment
- Your co-worker tells sexually explicit jokes and sends nude images of men and women to your work email, making you feel uncomfortable.
- Your boss consistently berates you about your religion in a casual way, usually said with a smile. You asked him to stop but he laughed and walked away.
- Your managers make jokes about your race on a weekly basis to each other when you’re in the room, even after you’ve expressed that they’re offensive.
- Your co-worker makes offensive comments about your disability to you and to other co-workers on a regular basis.
- You failed to receive a promotion, while your other younger co-worker did, and your manager made remarks about your age being a factor in meeting afterwards.
- A male co-worker makes comments weekly about you being a woman in a man’s business. You report it to your boss and he starts taking projects away from you in retaliation and giving him to the harassing co-worker.
- You witness the offensive behavior of one co-worker to your new transgender manager and it makes you dread coming to work, filling you with stress and anxiety.
If you believe that you have a case that constitutes a hostile work environment, find a local lawyer that can give you advice on your particular experience. An attorney can help you gather evidence, start the process to stopping the offensive behavior, and fighting for compensation for damages.