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How to Identify a Dangerous/Hostile Work Environment

hostile work environment claim

A hostile work environment can make you feel like you are walking through landmines all day. If you are terrified of your boss, constantly stressed out, and concerned that the people in your office are treating you poorly because of your gender, your race, your sexual orientation, or some other protected characteristic, then you might be the victim of a hostile work environment.

Below, we discuss the signs and symptoms of a hostile work environment. If you believe you have been the victim of harassment, discrimination, or other employment law violations, contact a dedicated Southern California employment law attorney for help.

What Is a Hostile Work Environment?

A “hostile work environment” is a form of employment discrimination. A hostile work environment is one that makes employees feel “uncomfortable, scared, or intimidated” because of wrongful, unwelcome conduct.

A work environment is not legally “hostile” just because it’s an unpleasant place to work. It’s not illegal for your boss to yell at you, to be unreasonably demanding, or even to berate you. For the employer’s conduct to be illegal, it must be targeted at certain protected characteristics, such as race, gender, sex, sexual orientation, ethnicity, religion, or age. Sexual harassment, in particular, has been tied to hostile work environment claims.

Additionally, for an environment to be unlawfully hostile, the unwelcome conduct must generally be pervasive–repeated over time–or especially egregious–such as demanding sex from an employee on threat of termination. A one-off offensive comment might not give rise to hostile work environment claims.

Signs of a Hostile Work Environment

Hostile work environments can be harder to detect than may first appear. It may seem like a boss is just a jerk to everyone, but if you detect a pattern of behavior targeted at certain categories of employees, for example, then you may be the victim of unlawful workplace discrimination.

Some examples of conduct giving rise to a hostile work environment may include:

  • Repeated comments concerning race, religion, ethnicity, sexual orientation, sex, or other protected characteristics, including offensive jokes or hostile remarks;
  • Displaying pictures, symbols, or pictures that offend based on protected characteristics;
  • Disparate treatment of certain classes of employees, such as harsher words or punishments for women or people of color;
  • Denial of the tools needed to perform the job to certain groups of employees, such as refusal to appoint sufficient staff or resources to workers from protected classes;
  • Physical assaults or threatening behavior;
  • Unwanted physical contact or touching;
  • Uninvited romantic or sexual advances, sexual comments, or other forms of sexual harassment.

In addition to the conduct itself, you may notice other symptoms of a hostile workplace. A hostile work environment is one that engenders fear, discomfort, and intimidation on the part of its employees. If you notice a pattern of any of the following, your workplace may be hostile:

  • Employees afraid to speak their minds or gather to discuss grievances;
  • Workers arguing often with one another or with supervisors;
  • Workers experiencing unusually high levels of burnout;
  • Workers afraid to encounter supervisors at all;
  • Victimization or ridiculing of other workers;
  • Unusually high levels of worker complaints and/or supervisor discipline, especially if the discipline is for small mistakes;
  • Consistent aggressive behavior, passive-aggressive behavior, or a fostering of a cut-throat, competitive environment;
  • A gut feeling that something is wrong with the workplace and that you are uncomfortable being at work.

Ultimately, you have to rely on your own observations and your discussions with your co-workers. If you feel like something is seriously wrong with your place of work, chances are that you are right. An experienced hostile work environment lawyer can help you identify specific grounds for hostile workplace claims and help you decide what to do next.

Contact a Compassionate Hostile Work Environment Attorney for Help With a Harassment or Discrimination Claim in Southern California

For help protecting yourself and recovering compensation after experiencing workplace discrimination in Southern California, call Ochoa & Calderón to discuss your case with a diligent, effective California labor and employment attorney. Call 951-901-4444 in Riverside or 844-401-0750 toll-free throughout Southern California.

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