Am I In a Hostile Work Environment?
If you are being singled out, picked on, harassed, or treated differently from other employees in your workplace, a Barrett & Farahany employment Discrimination Lawyer Atlanta GA can help you determine whether you have a claim against your employer for creating or failing to correct an illegal Hostile Work Environment (HWE). While not all workplace harassment is illegal, there are some very clear kinds of harassment that federal law protects against.
The following FAQ can help you differentiate between workplace harassment that is not protected and workplace harassment that constitutes an illegal hostile work environment.
What Exactly Is a Hostile Work Environment?
The legal term “Hostile Work Environment” can be confusing because it includes the adjective “hostile,” which is most often used to describe a host of behaviors that can range from unfriendly to intimidating, antagonistic, offensive or even downright malevolent. Although employees frequently believe that any hostility toward them at work means they are working in an illegal hostile work environment, this is not necessarily so. To be illegal, workplace harassment must generally be connected to a protected characteristic, such as race, religion, gender or sex, age, disability, national origin, or pregnancy. If the harassment you are experiencing at work has nothing to do with any of these federally protected characteristics, the harassment may not be illegal even if it makes your workplace uncomfortable. A consultation with a Barrett & Farahany employment Discrimination Lawyer Atlanta GA can help you determine whether the harassment you are experiencing at work is truly illegal and, if so, what you can do to protect yourself.
My boss screams, curses, is rude, or is demeaning toward me.
Unfortunately, the law does not necessarily provide for a comfortable workplace where employers are kind to employees and treat them with respect. Without more, screaming, demeaning behavior, rude responses, and even profanity and cursing are all forms of workplace harassment that are not typically protected by law. Where workplace harassment is not illegal, the employer has no obligation to intervene, and, in fact, complaints about unprotected issues may result in retaliation, including termination, that is also not protected. On the other hand, if there is any evidence that the harassment is based on a protected characteristic, it is very likely that such harassment constitutes an illegal hostile work environment. In this case, your employer is obligated to intervene and correct the problem. Additionally, complaints about workplace harassment that you identify as connected to a protected characteristic are protected complaints, and retaliation in response to this kind of complaint would be illegal. If you’re unsure whether your situation would be protected by law, a Barrett & Farahany employment Discrimination Lawyer Atlanta GA can help you sort through the details and advise you about your next best steps.
My boss excludes me and is targeting me for termination.
Most states are at-will employment states, meaning that employees are not entitled to their jobs and can therefore be fired for any reason or no reason whatsoever. This is true regardless of the quality of your work or the length of your employment. For that reason, it is generally not illegal for a superior to dislike you, to threaten your job, or to make it their mission to terminate you. As noted above, however, if there is any evidence that you are being targeted based on a characteristic that federal law protects, your employer may be creating an illegal hostile work environment that you should complain about immediately.
If you believe that you are being targeted because of a protected characteristic such as race, religion, gender or sex, national origin, age, disability, or pregnancy, a Barrett & Farahany employment Discrimination Lawyer Atlanta GA can help you better understand your rights. We can advise you about how and to whom you should complain to get the most protection for yourself, including how you should respond to any illegal retaliation that occurs after your complaint is filed. Call us today for a complimentary consultation!