What constitutes a hostile work environment? The answer can be tricky, as there is a line between irritating and annoying behavior and genuinely discriminatory behavior.
What constitutes a hostile work environment must meet several criteria from a legal standpoint. A hostile work environment isn't necessarily a place you don't like to work. If you are considering filing a lawsuit because of your work issues, the workplace must meet certain criteria.
The Definition Of A Hostile Work Environment
A hostile workplace environment prevents you from doing your job duties reasonably. In this scenario, a boss or co-worker creates an environment that is counterproductive due to his behavior and actions. Generally, these behaviors must be discriminatory in nature and are not just a result of rude or boorish behavior.
Certain class status conditions are legally protected in the workplace, such as gender, sexual orientation, race, religion or disability. The hostile workplace environment must relate to one or more of those protected classes. For example, a co-worker who constantly sabotages another's work because of gender is creating a hostile environment, as is the co-worker who uses racial slurs repeatedly when addressing a co-worker of a different race. Workplace vulgarity or bullying in a general form may not be considered a hostile work environment if action against and in spite of a protected class is not involved. To learn more about the laws that help protect certain groups, visit the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission site.
However, you have other grounds for arguing that a place is a hostile work environment:
The behavior in question must also be considered pervasive in order to be legally admissible. By pervasive, the law must take that to mean the behavior is not limited to a few incidents and that a pattern has developed. An inappropriate comment or two may be considered work issues that HR can handle, but they cannot create a hostile environment according to the legal definition.
The behavior in question must also be severe enough to create a hostile work environment. It must be enough to disrupt the victim's work and prevent her from carrying out normal duties. Severity can also be considered sufficient grounds when the victim's behavior resulted in a promised negative action, such as a demotion, firing or pass over for a raise.
Unfortunately, some people who were bullies as children become bullies as adults. Since they encounter too many people who are afraid of them, they might be able to bully their way into a good job. These people poison companies, but they somehow manage to stick around. Luckily, you don't have to put up with them.
A victim of workplace harassment may not feel comfortable speaking to a supervisor, but there is no reason to be nervous when it comes to protecting your rights. By not reporting harassment, you are giving the harasser even more power.