What is a Hostile Work Environment?

Scenario #1: Ana, a 17-year-old stock handler in a majority male workplace, asks her boss for a small raise after working for the organization for 8 months. Ever since her request, her boss has been acting differently including blocking her way when she tries to pass and getting close to her as well as rubbing her back and shoulders while saying she is a “good worker”. One day he pulls her aside and says that even though she is not due for a promotion yet, he will pull some strings and get her a raise anyway if she goes out with him.

Scenario #2: Bianca works part-time as an office assistant, taking over for Maria the full-time office assistant after she leaves. Bianca and Maria share the same workspace and computer. Lately Maria has been staying in the office after her shift is over and asking Bianca questions about her personal life, specifically if she has a boyfriend and whether she’s ever thought about dating women. Maria tried to give Bianca a back massage and put semi-nude pictures of women as the computer’s wallpaper, telling Bianca not to change it because she is the full-time employee.

Scenario #3: Richard is 17 years old and works in a retail cellphone store after school with his supervisor, Carly and another female coworker. One day Carly asked Richard to lift her up by her waist so she could reach a product up on a high shelf. Richard politely declined because there was a step-stool nearby and he felt very uncomfortable with the request. Carly told him he shouldn’t disobey a manager and called him a wimp. Richard’s co-worker overheard and laughed it off.

Out of These Examples, Which is a Hostile Work Environment?

All of These Scenarios Represent a Hostile Work Environment.

A hostile work environment is a type of harassment that is prohibited under federal law, specifically Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1974. Generally, a work environment is hostile when a worker fears going to his or her place of employment. Federal law, specifically, describes this environment as “offensive, intimidating, or oppressive”.

The legal requirements needed to meet the definition of a hostile work environment include:

  • The actions, communications or behavior must discriminate against a protected class of persons (based on race, age, disability, religion, etc.);
  • The actions, communications, or behavior must occur over time, be pervasive, and not be limited to an off-the-cuff remark or two;
  • The actions, communications, or behavior must be severe so as to seriously disrupt the victim’s work or career progress; and
  • It is reasonable to assume the employer knew, or should have known, about the actions, communications or behavior and did not sufficiently intervene.

Think You Know What is a Hostile Work Environment?

If you or someone you know believes he or she is the victim of a hostile work environment, or is dealing with any other employment issue, contact an experienced employment law attorney right away. The knowledgeable employment law attorneys at Levine & Blit, PLLC have years of labor law experience and can provide a free no-obligation case evaluation. Contact or call our Los Angeles office at (646) 461-6838 today to schedule your initial free consultation.

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