You have the right to feel comfortable and safe at work, but unfortunately, too many employees experience intimidation, belittling, and harassment. In August 2017, nonprofit think tank RAND released a study suggesting that approximately one in five US workers struggled through a hostile work environment every day.
When determining whether a work environment is hostile, courts commonly consider factors like whether the employee feels that they have to put up with the perceived harassment to keep their job and whether a reasonable person would find the conduct abusive or intimidating. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission Investigators also consider circumstances such as:
- The nature of the conduct (verbal, physical, or both)
- The frequency of occurrence
- Whether the alleged perpetrator was a coworker or supervisor
- How many individuals were targeted for harassment
- How senior management responded when they learned about the situation
Below are five examples of situations that have led to hostile work environment claims.
1. Forced Touching
Susan works for an office cleaning company. On nights that she works with Eric, he routinely comes up behind her and snaps her brassiere strap. On another occasion, he followed her into a supply room and tried to force her to kiss him. She pushed him away and told him to stop. Moments later, she overheard him tell a coworker that he wanted to have sex with her.
2. Inappropriate Comments
Kim’s colleague began making comments about how sexy her business attire was and what he would like to do with her if she let him. When he asked her out, she said no and complained to Human Resources. He stopped speaking to her, but quietly retaliated by staring at her and failing to support her on team projects, which hindered her job performance.
3. Disparate Treatment Due to Race
Joe is Asian-American. When he accepted a job at a software development company, he quickly noticed that everyone in his department was white. One coworker spoke slowly to him, as if he couldn’t understand English, and another asked him what his “people” thought of a certain political issue. When he complained to his manager, he was told that he was imagining things.
4. Age Discrimination
When a management position became available in Rob’s department, he immediately applied. He was 45 and had been with the company for nearly 15 years. To his dismay, the job was awarded to a 25-year-old coworker who had only come aboard last year. When he asked his supervisor about it, Rob was told that it was a high-activity position more suited to a younger person, and that he should focus on making it easier.
5. Pregnancy Discrimination
When Amanda finds out that she’s pregnant, some of her coworkers are happy for her, but others grumble about having to do her work while she’s on maternity leave. Her manager even withdraws a promotion offer, saying that he needs someone who can be “100% committed” to the job.
Contact an Employment Law Attorney
When you are dealing with a hostile work environment, an employment attorney can help you determine your legal options. No one deserves to be frightened and intimidated at work, and at Rosen Law, LLC, we are committed to helping workers stand up for their rights while also bringing negligent employers to justice. We support our clients by seeking maximum damages for unlawful workplace conduct, so for more information or to schedule a confidential consultation, please call (516) 437-3400.