If you are being subjected to a hostile work environment, you should contact a lawyer. Don’t let your boss or co-worker continue to treat you like garbage. Take a stand. Harassment in the workplace decreases productivity, destroys relationships, causes anxiety, and ruins careers. Sadly, we’ve found that many employers don’t care if they are promoting hostile employment practices. Most will not stop unless threatened by a hostile work environment lawyer.
The below video details exactly what CA law says about hostile work environments. But the video is only an overview, you must read the rest of this page after you watch the video to get a complete picture of how this area of law plays out in employment law.
What is a Hostile Work Environment?
How do you define a hostile work environment? The video above does an excellent job outlining the basics. If you’re more of a reader, then the below information should answer your question.
There are several types of hostile work environments. The most common type that people hear about is sexual harassment. However, the California Constitution and Fair Employment & Housing Act strive to prevent many types of harmful work environments.
What is critical to realize is that HWE becomes unlawful when the perpetrator is harassing the victim because of a protected characteristic. What this means is that your boss might not be violating the law if he or she is simply being mean to you. The critical element is that he or she has created an abusive environment directed at you because of one of the below categories:
If a supervisor is the perpetrator, the employer is automatically liable. However, in order to hold the employer liable for coworker HWE, the employee must show the employer knew or should have known the harassment was occurring and failed to take action. The video above makes this point very clear. Of course, the individual bad guy/girl can still be held personally liable even if the employer didn’t know or it was shown the employer had no reason to know of the bad behavior.
To find out if your work environment is unlawful, contact our office for a consultation. Mr. Robertson is a hostile work environment lawyer who will tell you whether or not your case is worth pursing.
Sign up for our monthly newsletter!
What Kind of Conduct Creates a HWE?
If your supervisor is picking on you because of one of the above categories, does the conduct rise to the level of a unlawful work environment? The Fair Employment & Housing Commission defines “harassment” as:
- verbal harassment, such as epithets, derogatory comments or slurs (or repeated romantic overtures, sexual comments and jokes or prying into one’s personal affairs); or
- physical harassment, such as unwanted touching, rubbing against someone, assault and physical interference with movement or work; or
- visual harassment, such as derogatory cartoons, drawings or posters, lewd gestures or leering.
In today’s modern world, most harassment takes place either verbally, or via text message or email. We constantly review long email and text chains to find the abusive comments.
There are lots of misconceptions as to what constitutes a hostile environment. In reality, it is narrowly defined by the law. A HWE can be manifested by various kinds of verbal and physical conduct, thereby creating a hostile or offensive working environment. However, this does not mean that any kind of verbal or physical conduct against an employee creates a HWE. Rather, the courts have laid out a specific test with requirements that an employee must satisfy in order to establish a hostile work environment. A good lawyer will quickly ask you specific questions to see if you’re suffering from an abusive working environment.
HWE Requires a Protected Characteristic
First, to establish a hostile work environment under FEHA, the employee must first show that the harassment creating the hostile work environment was based on a protected characteristic. A protected characteristic includes race, national origin, gender, sex, sexual orientation, religion, marital status, or disability.
This basically means that the employer’s discriminatory conduct must be motivated or caused by the employee’s protected characteristic. For example, a hostile work environment is created if a supervisor uses offensive jokes, slurs or name calling, intimidation, ridicule, and insults against an employee because the employee is black, gay, unmarried, christian, or in a wheelchair.
It Must Create an Abusive Working Environment
Second, the employee must show that the harassment was so severe or pervasive as to alter the conditions of the victim’s employment and create an abusive working environment. Basically, all this means is that a reasonable person, viewing the work environment from the outside, would perceive it as hostile or abusive. To determine this, the jury will look at the frequency and severity of the harassing conduct.
Hostile Work Environment Legal Advice
Should you sue for harassment? Is it worth it? That depends. Any good hostile work environment attorney knows that the law is complicated. Every case is different and every client is different. The best way to find out if you have a good case is to call a lawyer for advice. Our office offers free consultations. Don’t stand for unlawful harassment!
Contact employment attorney Branigan Robertson for information concerning your rights. Mr. Robertson handles many types of HWE cases. Call and we will provide you with a free consultation to determine if you have a case. Our office works on a contingency basis, which means you don’t pay us unless we successfully settle your case or win at trial.