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.