Understanding the Hostile Work Environment

Mar 21 2018

You’ve probably heard the term “hostile work environment,” but do you know what it means? Some people think it’s just an overbearing boss. But a boss does not create a hostile work environment just by yelling. In general, in order for a hostile work environment to be unlawful, it must be discriminatory or retaliatory. If the boss is equally mean to everyone, in other words, there may not be a hostile environment.

According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), a hostile work environment exists when employers and/or co-workers engage in discriminatory or retaliatory conduct that is severe or pervasive enough to affect the conditions of a worker’s employment and create an “abusive working relationship.” The conduct that is experienced by the worker must be objectively abusive.

In one of our most recent blogs, we talked about how to file a claim with the EEOC regarding allegations of abuse or harassment. But what exactly are they looking for when a claim is filed? The EEOC considers all of the following circumstances in determining whether or not your work environment might be an unlawfully hostile one:

  • Whether the conduct was verbal and/or physical
  • Whether the conduct was offensive
  • Whether the perpetrator was a co-worker or manager/supervisor
  • Whether others joined in the harassment
  • Whether you complained
  • Whether the harassment persisted after being brought to light

Separately, the EEOC will consider whether the harassment occurred on the basis of a legally-protected characteristic, such as your race, religion, ethnicity, age, sex, sexual orientation, or disability, or on the basis of your legally-protected conduct, such as whistleblowing or opposing other illegal or unethical conduct.

Garrison, Levin-Epstein, Fitzgerald & Pirrotti, P.C.’s experienced employment attorneys will consider these factors in each and every case. If you have been subjected to unfavorable working conditions, you have rights. No employee should face unlawful treatment that impacts their working life. Contact our Firm’s employment discrimination attorneys today. We are here to fight for you.

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