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What is Considered a Hostile Work Environment?

Posted by B&F Contributor | Apr 19, 2023

Many people use the term “hostile work environment” very casually. You might hear someone say this when they have coworkers or supervisors they don't get along with or have a stressful culture in their workplace. While this can make your work life unpleasant and poor business practices may be involved, these situations do not meet the legal standards of what a hostile work environment actually is. 

No one should have to put up with the behaviors and actions that go into creating a hostile work environment. At Barrett & Farahany, we can help you better understand what constitutes a hostile work environment and how you can protect yourself and your employee rights. 

Hostile Work Environment Requirements

While many might know that discrimination is illegal, they might not be familiar with what the law says about harassment. Some employees may feel harassed in their workplaces, but for this to be illegal, it needs to be based on an employee's membership in a protected class. Under various federal laws, harassment is considered to be an illegal form of harassment. 

However, if you've felt harassed due to your membership in a protected class, such as your race, age, or sex, this might not automatically be considered a hostile work environment. Harassment become unlawful when it meets the following qualifications:

  1. Enduring the harassment becomes a condition of continued employment; or
  2. The harassment becomes severe or pervasive enough to create a work environment that any reasonable person would consider intimidating, hostile, or abusive.

Under federal law, a one-off situation involving harassment might not be enough to be considered a hostile work environment, unless it's extremely serious. This also does not protect employees from petty slights or annoyances.  

According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, harassment can include offensive jokes, slurs, epithets or name-calling, physical assaults, threats, intimidation, ridicule, mockery, insults or put-downs, offensive objects or pictures, and interference with work performance. 

Knowing whether or not the harassment you've dealt with at work is unlawful can be challenging. An experienced hostile work environment attorney can help you determine if what you've experienced in your workplace would be considered a hostile work environment.

Alabama and Georgia State Laws Regarding Hostile Work Environments

Some states have their own laws that provide additional protections to employees that are not afforded to them under federal laws. However, Alabama and Georgia do not have state laws that protect employees from discrimination and harassment in the workplace. Because of this, employees in these states are protected by federal laws.

Who is Liable for a Hostile Work Environment? 

When you experience harassment that impacts your ability to work, you expect your employer to help put a stop to it. However, some employers are not concerned about their employees' well-being or the law. You may be able to hold your employer liable for the harassment if you can prove that they should have known the harassment was occurring and failed to do anything to stop it.

Contact Our Alabama and Georgia Hostile Work Environment Attorneys Today

You should not be expected to work each day in a hostile work environment. This not only impacts the quality of your work but your all-around quality of living as well. As an employee in the United States, you have rights that your employer must respect. At Barrett & Farahany, we will stand up for you when these rights are violated.

Contact our hostile work environment attorneys today for assistance. 

About the Author


When you reach out to us, you will receive a complimentary consultation with one of our skilled Atlanta employment attorneys. During our initial consultation with you, we can help you to better understand your rights and will work with you to determine what course of action is in your best interest. We take great pride in providing assistance based on years of experience negotiating and litigating employment matters to protect employee interests. If you find yourself in need of dedicated legal representation, we are prepared to advocate on your behalf – our goal is always to protect employee victims of harassment, discrimination, and retaliation.