People often believe that simple unpleasantries can create a hostile work environment. This is a common misconception. A lack of perks, an obnoxious coworker, or lack of promotion doesn’t constitute a hostile work environment. To be a hostile work environment, the workplace must meet certain criteria. There are many different scenarios that might prove you are working in a hostile environment. In this post, we’ll answer the question, “what behaviors are considered criteria for a hostile work environment? “

At Greenwald Law Firm, we take hostile work environments very seriously. No one should feel afraid or uncomfortable in their place of work. If you think you may be working in a hostile environment, let Shreveport Lawyer Joseph Greenwald help. He and his team will help walk you through the legal process and make sure your best interests are being taken care of.

Hostile Work Environment Definition

The word “hostile” can often be an ambiguous term. There are many different ways someone may interpret a hostile work environment. So what defines a hostile work environment? The Legal Dictionary provides a formal definition for this type of behavior. It is “an unwelcome or offensive behavior in the workplace.” This behavior must cause “one or more employees to feel uncomfortable, scared, or intimidated in their place of employment.” 

A hostile work environment can come from any action, form of communication, or behavior that leaves an employee feeling uncomfortable. This inappropriate behavior often leaves them feeling concerned for their safety, integrity, or wellbeing.

What Behaviors are Considered Criteria for a Hostile Work Environment? Are There Any?

A hostile work environment claim must meet certain criteria. For one, it must prove that a person received discrimination for any of the following reasons:

  • Gender
  • Race
  • Religion
  • Sexual orientation
  • Age
  • Disability
  • Pregnancy 
  • Ancestry/National origin

Another thing that you must prove is that the conduct was severe enough to constitute a form of abuse. If you can prove these things, you may have a hostile work environment case. 

To determine what makes up abuse, though, is not always clear cut. It is more subjective than it is fact-dependent. Any reasonable person must be able to find the act or communication to be hostile or abusive. It can be tricky to define a “reasonable” person, because some people are naturally more sensitive than others. 

The behavior must also prove to be persistent. A one-time incident, while unfortunate, may not qualify as a hostile workplace. The harassment or discrimination must occur on a continuing basis to meet this criteria. It must also prove to affect the individual in a negative way. This may mean it impacts their work performance or their emotional state of being. 

Generally, the first recommended step to take in the case of hostility in the workplace is to notify your employer or supervisor. If they fail to remedy the situation, that’s when you should take the next step of filing a complaint.

One of the most common claims for a hostile work environment is sexual harassment. Over 7,500 claims made in 2018 related to sexual harassment or misconduct. 

Examples of a Hostile Work Environment Behaviors

There are several examples of what constitutes a hostile work environment. As mentioned before, it is subjective to the person alleging the complaint. Some of the more common examples include the following:

  • Unwarranted or inappropriate touching.
  • The invasion of an employee’s personal property or space, especially in a threatening or sexual manner.
  • Sharing sexual or pornographic images (whether of an employee or of a stranger).
  • Discussing inappropriate or sexual acts or using explicit language.
  • Asking inappropriate or sexual questions.
  • Implying indecent scenarios or information.
  • Indecent jokes or gestures toward or in the presence of the victim.
  • Posting indecent material, like sexual or explicit posters, within the work space.
  • Inappropriate comments about a person’s appearance.
  • Intentionally sabotaging an employee’s work.
  • Using ethnic slurs, sexist remarks, or other insensitive language.

It is almost impossible to list every scenario in which workplace hostility or abuse may occur. These are only some of what may entail a claim rather than a limited and comprehensive list.

How Do I File a Hostile Work Environment Complaint?

A hostile work environment claim falls under the category of workplace discrimination. If reporting to your employer did not remedy the situation, you will need to file a discrimination complaint with the EEOC. 

If after 6 months the issue is still not resolved, you should discuss your options with an attorney. One of your options may be to file a lawsuit against your employer or the person responsible for the abuse. 

Can I Sue My Employer For a Hostile Work Environment?

The perpetrator of abuse or discrimination in the workplace doesn’t only pertain to the person’s employer. It can be a supervisor, coworker, intern, agent of the employer, or any regular visitor or personnel within the organization. 

An employer has a responsibility to create a safe workplace for their employees. Once they become aware of a complaint for a hostile work environment, they must work to remedy it. Whether the complaint is against them or another employee, if the employer doesn’t acknowledge and attempt to fix the issue, they may be liable. 

In many workplaces, there is a process already set in place for employers to submit complaints or grievances. If you aren’t already aware of this, ask your employer for the proper submission process.

If the employer was not actively involved in the alleged hostile situation and they weren’t made aware of it, it’s not likely that they will get held liable. They must have already had prior knowledge of the discrimination or harassment before the court holds them responsible for it.

Hostile Work Environment Lawsuit

If you plan to file a civil lawsuit, you should keep detailed records of the harassment or discrimination to supply in court. Document as much of the instance as you can and then hold on to that evidence. Also keep any evidence that proves that the company or employer was previously made aware of this situation. If there were witnesses to the alleged harassment or discrimination, take note of them, as well. This will all be useful proof for your lawyer in a court of law.

Contact Greenwald Law Firm Today To Learn More

If you feel that you’ve been subject to a hostile work environment in the Shreveport area, contact Joseph Greenwald as soon as possible. You do not need to suffer through this any longer than you already have. At Greenwald Law Firm, our primary focus is getting you favorable results fast. Call us at 318-219-7867 or visit our website to tell us about your experience today.

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