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Can I accuse my workplace of being hostile?

| Dec 17, 2020 | Employment Law |

No workplace is perfect: It’s likely that you will, unfortunately, come across insensitive, rude or even discriminatory coworkers at some point in your career. While this type of behavior is surprisingly common, this does not make it acceptable.

In the U.S., employees are legally protected from workplace discrimination based on a number of protected characteristics. The type of discrimination that is relatively minor but pervasive and consistent could constitute what is known to be a hostile working environment. The following is an overview of what is meant by a hostile work environment under the law and how you may be able to take legal action.

The definition of a hostile work environment

A hostile work environment is defined as a working environment in which an employee feels deeply uncomfortable because of the persistent behavior of their managers or coworkers. For example, while one uncomfortable experience may warrant a complaint to your line manager, it is likely not enough to constitute a hostile work environment. However, if a group of your coworkers has been making constant sexist jokes that are aimed at you or told in front of you, this may make you feel unwelcome, ostracized and discriminated against, and will likely constitute a hostile work environment.

What types of actions could cause a hostile work environment

Sexual harassment is a common cause of hostile work environments. Illegal conduct may include insults and name-calling, touching, physical assaults and threats, the use of sexual language, or even the use of sexually suggestive objects or pictures. For example, if you receive emails from coworkers who jokingly or seriously make sexual propositions to you, this can cause you to feel very uncomfortable and even embarrassed. This type of behavior can lead to a hostile work environment and can affect work performance.

If you are feeling uncomfortable at work because of the inappropriate behavior of your coworkers, it is important that you take swift action to explore your legal options.


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