Signs You’re in a Hostile Work Environment
Sometimes, you’re in a workplace environment and it simply doesn’t feel right. In your gut, you know that you, and maybe other coworkers, are not comfortable. There’s an unpleasant pattern of behavior. Maybe it’s the way supervisors treat certain people, or maybe it’s the constant barrage of off-color jokes made by coworkers. Your feelings may matter more than you think. If you are being subjected to a hostile work environment, you have the right to hold your employer accountable and prevent future instances of harassment or discrimination. Below, we discuss hostile work environment claims and certain signs and symptoms of a hostile workplace. If you have been subjected to a hostile work environment or other forms of discrimination or harassment, call an experienced labor law and workers’ rights attorney for advice and assistance.
What Is a Hostile Work Environment?
A hostile work environment does not generally refer to any unpleasant or uncivil workplace conduct. The hostile work environment is a specific legal term of art referring to a situation in which an employee is subjected to harassment or discrimination that is so offensive as to negatively and severely impact their ability to work. The unwelcome conduct must relate to a protected characteristic of the employee–for example, their race, gender, sexual orientation, religion, age, or disability.
The conduct must be both severe and pervasive, meaning that it is subjectively and objectively offensive and that it continues to occur. Certain conduct may be so severe as to give rise to a hostile work environment claim even after a single instance–such as sexual assault committed by a supervisor.
A hostile work environment can arise from the conduct of any employee, whether they are a supervisor or a co-worker of the plaintiff. Employers are automatically liable for the conduct of supervisors, but if the claim is based on co-worker conduct, the aggrieved employee must show the employer was aware of the conduct (or should have reasonably been aware of the conduct) and failed to take appropriate steps to remedy the hostile environment.
Are You Experiencing a Hostile Work Environment?
Discrimination and harassment can take many forms. It may be obvious, or it may be more subtle. Watch out for certain signs and symptoms of harassment or discrimination to evaluate whether you may be the victim of a hostile work environment:
- Certain categories or classes of employees are paid less, hired more rarely, passed over for promotions, or otherwise treated unequally
- Your supervisor is especially rude or condescending to you, or to others in your protected class, rather than simply being a generally unpleasant person to everyone
- Your workspace fosters or permits offensive jokes, comments, slurs, or images targeting specific, protected classes of people (age, race, gender, etc.)
- You experience a pattern of unwelcome advances or inappropriate comments, rather than a single, one-off incident
- You’ve noticed a pattern of complaints that go unanswered
- Implicit or explicit threats by supervisors and managers warning employees against complaining
- Individuals who complain about treatment, or who are part of a certain class, are given unjustifiably unfavorable performance reviews
- You and your coworkers generally feel uncomfortable, afraid, intimidated, unwelcome, or otherwise targeted
If you notice this sort of conduct in your workplace, or if you know in your gut that something is wrong, talk to an experienced labor law and workplace discrimination attorney.
Call a Seasoned Workplace Harassment Attorney for Help With a California Labor Law Claim
For help protecting yourself and recovering compensation after experiencing a hostile work environment in Southern California, call Ochoa & Calderón to discuss your case with a thorough and trial-ready California sexual harassment lawyer. Call 951-901-4444 in Riverside or 844-401-0750 toll-free throughout Southern California.