Hostile Work Environments & Harassment

It would be nice if we all worked in environments where employees were supportive and friendly with each other and supervisors looked out for their employees’ best interests. However, that’s not reality, especially in today’s workplace. Many employees work at businesses that subject them to horrific harassment at work, which can make life unbearable. To make matters worse, some employees can’t leave their job for various reasons, and feel that they have to endure the harassment.Hostile work environment

However, workplace harassment can be a form of discrimination that can violate both state and federal law. If a person is subjected to unwelcome verbal or physical conduct based on race, religion, sex, national origin, age, disability, sexual orientation, or retaliation at work, that can constitute workplace harassment and is a violation of state and federal law. Under federal law, this is a violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. In California, this conduct is a violation of the California Fair Employment and Housing Act.

What is Considered Harassment?

In order for conduct to be considered harassment, several elements are necessary. First, the victim must be a member of a protected class. The victim must have been subjected to unwelcome verbal or physical conduct as a result of being in the protected class and the harassment must be based on membership in the protected class. Finally, the harassing behavior must have either been severe enough to make an offensive work environment or persuasive enough to affect a condition of employment.

By law, anyone in an office can behave in a way to make the workplace a hostile work environment, including a supervisor, another employee, or even a non-employee, such as a contractor or customer. Some examples of conduct that could create a “hostile work environment” include making sexual remarks about a worker’s looks or body, telling sexual jokes, using racially offensive words, making rude comments about a worker’s gender, saying derogatory things about a worker’s disabilities, or mocking a person’s religion. There can also be conduct that does not constitute a hostile workplace environment, even if it’s rude or mean. Teasing or offhand comments aren’t illegal, nor are incidents that occur very rarely.

If You Believe You Are Being Harassed

If you are harassed at work and you believe it is making your workplace a “hostile work environment”, you should immediately report the behavior to your supervisor or another member of management. Hopefully, the conduct will stop and you will be able to continue as an employee with no further incidents. However, in some cases further legal action is necessary. For example, if the conduct doesn’t stop, you were punished because of your membership in a protected class, or you are retaliated against because you complained, your legal rights may have been violated. In that situation, you may need to file an Equal Employment Opportunity complaint with the U.S. Department of Labor or a charge with the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing, and then in some cases, file a lawsuit.

Contact California Employment Rights Law Firm, Liberty Law

At Liberty Law, Micha Star Liberty believes that every employee should be able to work in an environment free from harassment. If you are in the Oakland-San Francisco Bay area, and you feel that you have been subjected to a “hostile work environment” and you don’t know what to do about it, call Micha Star Liberty, employment attorney, at 415-896-1000 or 510-645-1000. She will help guide you through the next steps you should take. Call her today.

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