Our jobs are often a big part of our lives, which is why having a positive, safe working environment is incredibly important. Working in a toxic or abusive environment can cause employees to feel unsafe, unwelcome, and generally uncomfortable. If an employee has repeatedly been subjected to discriminatory harassment at the workplace, they may be entitled to file a claim against their employer for subjecting its employees to a hostile work environment.
What is a hostile work environment?
Under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, discriminatory harassment of employees in the workplace is illegal. Proving a hostile work environment claim requires you to establish harassment in the workplace that you are forced to endure in order to continue working there. To prove harassment in the workplace, you will need to show:
- Harassment: Unwanted conduct that was offensive to the alleged victim and would also be considered offensive by a reasonable person.
- Discriminatory conduct: Harassment must be based on an employee’s protected characteristic (e.g., age, race, religion).
- Severe and pervasive: Harassment must occur over time and must be severe enough to interfere with work.
- Basis for employer liability: Employer knew or should have known about harassment but failed to address the situation. If the harassment was by a supervisor, and it resulted in an adverse employment action (e.g., termination of employment), the employer will be automatically liable.
A hostile work environment can be created intentionally, or because of inadvertent comments made by coworkers, subordinates, or supervisors. Power dynamic does not necessarily play into hostile work environment nearly as much as other forms of workplace harassment. If you have been harassed at work, a Fayetteville employee attorney can fight for your employee rights.