Have you been the victim of a hostile work environment due to your race, gender, ethnicity, religion, height, weight, age, marital status, or disability? Employers are required to take action to prevent a hostile work environment based on one of the protected classes above.
What makes a work environment hostile?
Per federal laws, hostile work environment is one where harassment is severe and pervasive. Often, the misconduct is so disruptive that it makes it difficult for a person to work and feel safe.
More specifically, this type of environment can involve:
- Making frequent, offensive comments or stories
- Posting photos, posters or other images that are racist or explicit
- Making derogatory or graphic remarks about someone’s appearance
- Making unwelcome gestures
- Discussing sexual habits or materials
- Telling inappropriate or objectionable jokes
When these statements or behaviors occur repeatedly, they can make the workplace uncomfortable for others and interfere with a person’s ability to do their job. A hostile work environment can take a horrible toll on people. At the very least, harassment in the workplace can lead workers to dread going to work every day reducing the ability of the employee to enjoy life. At the very worst, harassment can lead to severe mental or emotional distress, depression, and anxiety impacting the ability of employees to sleep, eat, or concentrate.
Protecting yourself and your rights
Under these circumstances, a person should make a report. An employer is required to take employee complaints of a hostile work environment seriously, perform a thorough investigation, and take reasonable action to remedy the situation and prevent the harassment from continuing. Depending on the employer and the behavior, making a report can involve notifying a supervisor or Human Resources, or it could mean filing a discrimination charge.
If a hostile work environment precedes a demotion, termination or other adverse employment events, a person could have grounds for a legal claim citing wrongful termination.
It is not always easy to speak up, particularly if you feel like your job, benefits and livelihood are on the line. However, state and federal laws protect people from harassment and discrimination. Victims also have the right to report a hostile work environment without facing retaliation by an employer for doing so.
When you know your rights as an employee, you can better protect them and yourself when you go to work. If you have any questions regarding those rights, contact an attorney with Miller Cohen PLC. We offer free consultations—just call 313-566-4787.