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Recognizing the key signs of a hostile work environment

On Behalf of | Oct 24, 2023 | Employment Law - Employee

All workers deserve to be treated with respect. However, in spite of state and federal laws prohibiting certain behaviors and activities, this is not always the case. Some California employees face a hostile work environment while trying to perform their jobs; this is what it means and the signs of it.

Hostile work environment explained

A hostile work environment occurs when an employee is exposed to harassment, discrimination or other actions or speech that negatively affect their ability to perform their job. Behaviors from other coworkers, supervisors or even those further up the food chain are illegal per the Civil Rights Act of 1964; this is especially the case if a worker is subject to harassment or discrimination due to their race, gender, sexual orientation, religion, disability status or other protected status.

Signs of a hostile work environment

An occasional joke or even argument between coworkers doesn’t necessarily qualify as a hostile work environment. However, if certain speech or actions are repetitive and touch on a worker’s protected status, it is considered harassment or discrimination and makes it difficult or even impossible for the person to do their job. For example, an Arabic and Muslim employee should not be subjected to Islamophobic slurs on a daily basis; if a coworker constantly barrages them with offensive slurs, it equates to a hostile work environment.

A workplace can also be considered hostile if a worker receives regular threats or intimidation. Sometimes, this may be in the form of sexual harassment. For example, a male supervisor regularly texts a female employee nude photos of himself while threatening her job if she reports him.

If an employee files a complaint with their employer or human resources office, the employer must take action to stop the harassment. However, if the complaint is ignored, the worker can file a claim with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.