While free speech in the United States allows protection from the government when expressing certain thoughts and opinions, this does not extend to employers, especially in the workplace. Whether in an in-person workplace or an online workspace, employers have a right and responsibility to make sure that employees are behaving professionally to avoid creating an overwhelming and toxic work culture that ultimately leads to a hostile work environment.
As an employment law firm, Barrett & Farahany has vast experience handling cases related to hostile work environments and understand the many different actions and behaviors that contribute to a hostile work environment. If you have any more questions or require help fighting a hostile work environment, contact our employment law attorneys.
What is a Hostile Work Environment?
According to employment law, a hostile work environment is created when an employee is subjected to discriminatory or harassing behavior based on their protected characteristics. Protected characteristics can include, but are not limited to:
This behavior must be severe and pervasive enough to create an intimidating, offensive, or hostile work environment for the employee.
Hostile Work Environment Actions
One of the main contributors to a hostile work environment is the actions taken by supervisors and their employees in the workplace. These actions can include discriminatory practices such as:
- Unequal pay
- Being passed over for promotions
- Being excluded from certain opportunities based on a protected characteristic
- Any type of harassment, verbal or physical
As mentioned above, acts of discrimination are a major cause of hostile work environments. Some examples of these actions include:
- Use of racial slurs
- Targetted derogatory language towards employees of a specific protected class
- Denying employment opportunities based on membership in a protected class
- Paying employees of certain protected classes different rates despite having the same or similar work output and quality of work
Harassment can take many forms, many of which double as discriminatory actions. They can be verbal, physical, and even cyberbullying in today’s digital age. Hostile work environment actions related to harassment can include:
- Making offensive or derogatory comments toward an employee’s religion, sexual orientation, or other protected characteristic
- Using physical intimidation or threats against employees
- Sending inappropriate emails or messages to an employee
Hostile Work Environment Behaviors
In addition to specific actions taken by individuals, there are also behaviors that can contribute to a hostile work environment. On their own, they are not illegal and would not create a hostile work environment, but altogether contribute to one. These behaviors are often a result of an unhealthy or toxic workplace culture and can include:
- Gossiping or spreading rumors about other employees
- Instigating conflicts among coworkers
- Excluding certain people from team activities or projects
- Micromanaging or creating unnecessary stress for other employees
It is the responsibility of the employer to provide a safe and inclusive work environment for all of their employees. This includes taking necessary actions to prevent or address any hostile work environment behaviors or actions.
Employers should have clear policies in place that prohibit discrimination and harassment, as well as procedures for addressing any complaints or issues that may arise. Should they fail to protect their employees, they can face a lawsuit for allowing a hostile work environment from both employees and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).
Employees also play a role in creating a positive work environment and should be aware of their actions and behaviors toward coworkers. It’s important for employees to speak up and report any incidents of discrimination or harassment, as well as avoid participating in behaviors that contribute to a hostile work environment.
Contact the Attorneys at Barrett & Farahany For Help With Your Hostile Work Environment
Some hostile work actions and behaviors are more difficult to recognize than others. Sometimes people can become so used to this dreadful behavior that they don’t question it. Don’t suffer in silence. Seek legal help.
The employment law attorneys at Barrett & Farahany are dedicated to helping employees who have experienced a hostile work environment. If you believe you may be working in a hostile work environment, contact us today.
You deserve to work in a safe and respectful environment, free from discrimination and harassment. Let us help you fight for your rights.