What is a Hostile Work Environment?

According to the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), every employee America deserves a safe, harassment-free workplace. And yet, inappropriate or aggressive behavior is still pervasive in many places of business, and employees across the nation feel like they are in a hostile work environment. But what actually is a hostile work environment and what can be done to stop it from affecting you?

Defining a Hostile Work Environment

Also according to the EEOC, a legally-defined hostile work environment is only created after the offensive conduct has become expected and enduring it becomes a necessity for employment. It must also be severe or consistent enough to create reasonable intimidation or fear in the average person. That is to say that the occasional quip or joke that could be deemed offensive to some would not likely constitute the creation of a hostile work environment. Additionally, the offender and their employer must have known that the activities were unacceptable and yet did nothing to stop or alter it.

Actions and behaviors that can add to a hostile work environment include:

  • Discussing sensitive topics, such as sexual activities
  • Inappropriate jokes relating to race, gender, disabilities, etc.
  • Physical or emotional sexual harassment or touching
  • Using insulting terms during evaluations or critiques
  • Using crude or crass language or gestures
  • Intentionally damaging someone’s work or productivity
  • Openly threatening physical harm
  • Actually hurting someone, such as shoving or tripping

It is also important to note that more subtle forms of harassment, such as jokes or topics of discussion, often have to be both unwelcome and based upon a protected status. Some lawfully-protected statuses that are often discriminated against at work include:

What Can Be Done to Stop It?

The obvious solution would be to ask the offender to stop all potentially behavior while they are at work. But, for many people, they have reason to fear retaliation for speaking up, either due to the intensity of the hostility or the position of the person doing the harassing. Going to your Human Resources Department (HR) can often be a fruitless endeavor as well, as they may need to go through unnecessary circles to try to find a resolution that is not guaranteed to work.

The wise choice is to take immediate legal action with a Houston employment law attorney from Moore & Associates. We have been devoutly serving our clients since 2001 and know discrimination laws inside and out. If you are an employee facing such a serious issue and would like an aggressive legal advocate pushing and fighting for your right to a safe work environment, you need to contact us right away so we can start working on your case without delay.