What is a Hostile Work Environment?

Apr 12 2021

Amanda DeMatteis: Hi, Josh.

Josh Goodbaum: Hi, Amanda. So, what are we talking about today?

DeMatteis: Today, we’re talking about “hostile work environments.” So, typically, a potential client will come in and they’ll say, “I need help, I need some guidance. I’m working in a hostile work environment.” And it’s our job to determine whether or not that’s true. You want to talk to us about that a bit?

Goodbaum: Yeah, so a hostile work environment means different things to different people, but for lawyers, it’s a term of art. It has an actual definition. And basically, it’s a two-part definition. The first is anything an employer or coworker is doing that is sufficiently severe or pervasive to alter the working conditions in the workplace. That’s a relatively low bar. But the second thing is that it’s got to be based on either your protected characteristic or your protected conduct. So, it’s got to be created because of your race, or sex, or disability, or religion, or sexual orientation, etc. Or it’s got to be created because of retaliation – that is, because you engaged in some sort of protected activity.

DeMatteis: Right, so if folks find themselves working with an equal opportunity jerk, and they think that the environment that that boss is creating is hostile, it may not actually be a “hostile work environment” in the legal sense. Good information to know. If you want some more, go to our website garrisonlaw.com. Thanks for joining us today. See you later.

Goodbaum: Take care, bye.

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Hostile Work Environment

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