A hostile work environment can be extremely uncomfortable. It can also be infuriating and unproductive, whether you, as the victim, are an employee or employer. Do you know the definition of a hostile work environment? Are you able to recognize when the behavior in your workplace rises to a level that is discriminatory in nature?
Hostile work environment is a legal term and should not be used lightly. Although there can be behavior in the workplace you do not agree with or even feel that you should not have to tolerate, it may not rise to the level that can be considered a hostile work environment. A hostile work environment can be construed as harassment which is a form of employment discrimination that is prohibited under the law. According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, “...harassment becomes unlawful where 1) enduring the offensive conduct becomes a condition of continued employment, or 2) the conduct is severe or pervasive enough to create a work environment that a reasonable person would consider intimidating, hostile, or abusive…”
If you are facing this form of employment discrimination you can seek help. When harassment is intentional and severe, it can directly interfere with your ability to perform your job. If you are facing this type of situation in your workplace, it is important to learn your rights. Let us share a few key considerations for you when you are facing a hostile work environment.
1. Directly address the issue when it happens. While this may be difficult for many of us, it is an important step. Speak with your offender. Communicate the issue as it happens. Be direct. Do not generalize every situation and do not ignore it. Show your harasser your strength and your unwillingness to tolerate hostile behavior. Make it clear that his or her workplace behavior bothers you and you consider it harassment.
2. Document everything that happens to you. Do not rely solely on your memory. Write down what happens. In addition to speaking with the harasser, talk to your Human Resources department or supervisor. Ask for help in addition to recording your conversations and your offender’s responses.
3. Take the situation to your supervisor, Human Resources department or employer. Again, ask for help. Many offenders will not believe you will take the issue to management. Make sure a person in authority in your company is in the loop and understands the current situation. To the best of your ability, remain calm and professional. Give specific examples of the harassment that has occurred. Ask what the next steps are and what you can expect moving forward.
4. Consider speaking with an employment discrimination lawyer. Do not put off meeting with an employment discrimination lawyer. If you are experiencing a hostile work environment, it may not improve without additional help. Your employment discrimination attorney will be able to look at the case impartially and let you know if what is going on is harassment.
Our goal is always to seek justice for our clients. Whether you are an employer who has been wrongfully accused of improper conduct or an employee who has been the subject of wrongful conduct by an employer, do not wait to contact our firm. We are your Tallahassee law firm and are here to support you.