Proving a Hostile Work Environment | Barrett & Farahany

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How To Prove A Hostile Work Environment?

How To Prove A Hostile Work Environment?

Hostile work environments are not the easiest things to prove, but there are clear signs and evidence that you can consistently find across many examples. The attorneys at Barrett & Farahany can use these signs and evidence to prove that you and others have suffered a hostile work environment at the hands of your employer.

But, if you’re not sure if your workplace is a hostile work environment, we can offer help with that as well. Our employment law attorneys have the experience you need to solve this issue.

Understand What a Hostile Work Environment Is and Is Not

A hostile work environment must be distinguished from a situation that is merely difficult or annoying. Even a workplace that may seem toxic, or where someone might be rude or unpleasant is not enough to be considered a hostile work environment.

For instance, a boss yelling at an employee usually does not constitute a hostile workplace environment, but if there is evidence that shows that their behavior is based on discrimination, it could be considered hostile.

Prerequisites For Hostile Work Environments

A hostile workplace environment usually only exists when workplace harassment targets an employee because of their membership in a protected class.

As a result, hostile work environments may involve a variety of different elements depending on the context. This may include making discriminatory comments against someone based on:

  • Race
  • Genetics
  • Age
  • Sex
  • Religion
  • National origin
  • Disability
  • And more

Another notable example is retaliating against an employee for complaining about discrimination. A hostile work environment can also exist where a supervisor or co-worker repeatedly acts or behaves in a discriminatory manner toward you or someone else. Similarly, sexually harassing someone can constitute a hostile work environment.

The Law on Hostile Work Environment

While there is no specific federal hostile work environment law, a hostile work environment is nevertheless prohibited under other federal laws.

A flurry of federal anti-discrimination laws prohibit a hostile work environment, such as:

Furthermore, there may also be laws enacted at the state level that prohibit a hostile work environment; these state-level laws may even be stricter and offer stronger protections to victims of a hostile work environment.

How to Best Prove a Hostile Work Environment

Now that we understand what a hostile work environment is, it is important to understand how it can best be proved. If you are filing a claim of a hostile workplace environment, the burden is on you and your legal team to prove your claim.

To do so, you should collect various types of evidence, like notes you took on the hostile conduct, emails you sent to your supervisors about the behavior, and/or testimony of coworkers corroborating your story. These will all help your attorney present your case.

There are other important aspects of a hostile work environment claim you also need to know. The person bringing the claim must reasonably believe that tolerating the hostile work environment is a condition of maintaining employment. For instance, if a report to the HR department puts an end to the hostile behavior, then a viable claim of a hostile work environment is less likely.

It is also important that you follow any pertinent guidelines your employer has established, in a handbook or otherwise, regarding hostile behavior in the workplace. If you fail to follow anti-harassment policies, you are weakening your claim, and your employer may be able to use something called the “Faragher-Ellerth defense” if you have brought your claim under Title VII.

Under this defense, an employer can claim that it exercised reasonable care to put an end to the harassing behavior. The employee unreasonably failed to take advantage of preventive opportunities provided by the employer. On the other hand, if your employer fails to take reasonable action in response to a hostile work environment complaint from you, then you may file a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission or the relevant state department authority.

Contact an Experienced Hostile Work Environment Attorney Today

Here at the law offices of Barrett & Farahany, we are well-versed in all aspects of hostile work environment claims, whether federal or state. Contact us today to speak directly with an attorney.


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