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What is a hostile work environment?

by | Mar 24, 2021 | Employment Law Basics

Any harassment can be stressful and draining, but sometimes the harassment that people experience becomes pervasive enough that their office becomes a hostile or intimidating environment. This experience can disrupt the work that an employee performs and limit the progress of their career. How can you determine whether the harassment you experience in the workplace creates a hostile work environment?

What makes a work environment hostile?

To be considered a hostile environment, the harassment must meet a few specific requirements:

  • A workplace that involves intimidating, abusive or otherwise offensive conduct
  • This inappropriate conduct occurs based on an employee’s sex, race, national origin, religious beliefs, disability status, pregnancy status or age
  • The harassment continues over a more extended time, though Forbes notes that courts may view some offensive comments as severe enough to create a hostile work environment without repeated occurrences

The harassment experienced in a hostile work environment can range from discriminatory jokes or language to more severe behaviors like bullying, threats or physical contact. It can also involve environmental issues like an employee displaying inappropriate images in their workspace.

How can you protect your rights after workplace harassment or misconduct?

To take action against a hostile work environment, employees may need to document their experiences as well as the dates, times and locations of these incidents. Employees should also keep a record of any reports they made to their supervisor or other management.

If you have experienced a hostile work environment, you do not have to allow this harassment to continue. Consider speaking to an attorney about your experience. They can help you determine whether your experience meets the legal definition of a hostile work environment and explore your options for righting the wrong you have experienced.