A hostile work environment can be caused by a lousy supervisor, an uncomfortable work environment, a rude coworker, and a lack of teamwork. What does it mean to work in a hostile work environment? Let’s find out!
According to a Gallup poll, 67 percent of American workers are disengaged at work, 51 percent are actively looking for or open to a new job, and 47 percent believe this is a good time to find a decent job.
Also, the manager’s environment accounts for 70% of the difference in employee engagement.
According to SHRM, the most common reason for employees leaving their jobs is a lack of career advancement and opportunity.
All these characteristics can, however, make an environment appear hostile to an employee’s wants and needs.
This depends on what the employee requires the most.
Requirements for a Hostile Work Environment
However, for a workplace to be hostile, certain legal requirements must be met.
A hostile work environment is generated by a manager or coworker whose actions, words, or conduct make it impossible to execute your job.
This means the behavior changed the terms, conditions, and/or reasonable expectations of employees in a pleasant working environment.
The behavior acts, or messages are usually discriminating.
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), established by the Civil Rights Act of 1964, monitors and guides discrimination.
Under federal law, a hostile work environment claim is a type of workplace discrimination lawsuit.
The person filing the complaint must demonstrate that they were discriminated against because of race, gender, color, religion, sexual orientation, ancestry, national origin, or pregnancy.
So, while a coworker who shouts, snaps their gum, and leans over your desk when talking with you is improper, and obnoxious, it does not establish a legally defined hostile work environment.
A coworker who speaks sexually explicit jokes and circulates photographs of naked persons, on the other hand, is guilty of sexual harassment and creating a hostile work environment.
Also, a hostile work environment is created when your supervisor verbally berates you because of your age, religion, gender, or race.
Even if the remarks are informal, said with a smile, or portrayed as jokes, the situation is not excused.
This is especially true if you have requested the person to cease and the behavior persists.
By the way, asking the inappropriately behaving supervisor or coworker to stop is always the first step in dealing with inappropriate behavior at work.
Hostile Work Environment Legal Requirements
A protected classification, such as age, religion, handicap, or race, must be discriminated against in the activities or conduct.
The behavior or communication must be persistent, long-lasting, and not restricted to a few off-color remarks that irritated a coworker.
These instances should be reported to Human Resources so that appropriate action can be taken.
If a worker is hostile and this attitude persists over time and is not investigated and addressed by the organization to cease the behavior, it becomes serious and pervasive.
There must be serious hostile behavior, actions, or communication.
It is not just ubiquitous over time, but it must also substantially interrupt the employee’s work or ability to work.
The second level of severity arises when an employee’s career advancement is hampered by a hostile work environment.
As a result of the aggressive behavior, the employee did not earn a promotion or a work rotation.
It’s reasonable to presume that the employer was aware of the activities or behavior but did not intervene appropriately.
The employer could be held accountable for creating a hostile work environment.
Making the Employee Aware of the Situation
If an employee is experiencing a hostile work environment, the first step is to ask the offending employee to halt their behavior or communication.
If an employee is having trouble doing something on their own, they should seek assistance from management or Human Resources.
They are your finest in-house resources when another employee is engaging in inappropriate behavior.
They also act as a witness to the fact that you instructed the problematic employee to stop acting in a certain way.
You want to make it clear to the offending employee that their actions are insulting, discriminatory, and improper, and that you will not accept them.
Additional Resources to Find Before Acting
These materials will assist you in dealing with a hostile work environment before it becomes out of hand.
Dealing with tough individuals, dealing with a bully, having a difficult talk, and practicing conflict resolution skills are all options.
They’ll all assist you in improving your ability to deal with the coworker who is causing your unpleasant work environment.
Because many bullies are spineless when confronted, these techniques and concepts may be all you need.
Retaliation is Illegal
The behavior of a manager or supervisor should cease, especially if you have reported the behavior to the relevant management or HR staff member.
Furthermore, the person who has been reported may not retaliate against you as a result of your reporting his or her improper activity.
Requesting for Help
An employee who works in a hostile work environment and has tried unsuccessfully to halt the behavior should speak with his or her boss, employer, or Human Resources staff.
The first step in obtaining assistance is to request it.
Your employer must be given the chance to investigate the complaint and correct the problem of conduct.
If the employer was uninformed of the situation and was not allowed to rectify the behavior and hostile work environment, a later hostile work environment can affect your productivity..
This is in your hands because hostile, offensive behavior is usually observed and addressed when it is visible or seen by many employees in most settings.
Employees rarely have to deal with inappropriate behavior on their own.
You must bring the hostile behavior to your employer’s attention if it is not widely observed or if it occurs in secret without witnesses.
Furthermore, you may be surprised by how diligently your employer works to prevent existing and future instances that could lead to a hostile work environment.
Many employers consider harassment and the creation of a hostile work environment to be activities that merit dismissal after a thorough inquiry.
Allow your boss to do the right thing.
What is Harassment?
Harassment in the workplace is illegal under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (ADEA), and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990. (ADA).
Harassment is an unwanted behavior motivated by race, color, religion, or sex.
When the offensive behavior becomes a condition of continued employment, or the behavior is severe or pervasive enough to produce a work environment that a reasonable person would consider intimidating, hostile, or abusive, harassment becomes illegal.
Individuals may not be harassed in reprisal for filing a discrimination charge, testifying, or participating in any manner in an inquiry, process, or litigation brought under these statutes.
Or opposing employment practices that they reasonably believe discriminate against individuals.
Petty slights, annoyances, and isolated instances are not illegal (unless they are exceedingly significant).
To be illegal, the behavior must produce an intimidating, hostile, or unpleasant work environment for reasonable persons.
Offensive jokes, slurs, epithets, name-calling, physical assaults or threats, intimidation, ridicule or mockery, insults or put-downs, offensive objects or photos, and interference with work performance are all examples of offensive behavior.
Harassment can take place in a variety of situations, including but not limited to:
- The harasser could be the victim’s boss, a boss in another department, an employer’s representative, a coworker, or a non-employee.
- The victim does not have to be the person harassed, but anyone who is harmed by the objectionable behavior might be considered a victim.
- Harassment may occur without causing financial harm to the victim or for the victim’s employment to be terminated.
To eradicate workplace harassment, the best tool is prevention.
Employers are encouraged to take the necessary actions to prevent and address harassment.
They should make it very clear to staff that harassing behavior will not be allowed.
Establishing a good complaint or grievance process, giving anti-harassment training to managers and employees, and taking immediate and appropriate action when an employee complains are all ways they might achieve this.
Employers should attempt to establish an environment where employees feel comfortable voicing their concerns and know that they will be handled.
Employees are encouraged to tell the harasser that their behavior is unacceptable and must cease.
They should also report harassment to management as soon as possible to avoid it becoming worse.
Harassment and Employer Liability
If a supervisor’s harassment leads to a negative employment action, such as termination, failure to promote or hire, or wage loss, the employer is automatically accountable.
If a supervisor’s harassment creates a hostile work environment, the employer can avoid liability if he or she can show the following:
- He/ she made an effort to prevent and promptly correct the harassing behavior, and the employee did not take advantage of any preventive or corrective opportunities provided by the employer.
- If the employer knew or should have known about the harassment and failed to take fast and adequate corrective action, it will be liable for harassment by non-supervisory workers or non-employees.
The EEOC examines the complete record when reviewing complaints of harassment, including the nature of the conduct and the context in which the alleged occurrences happened.
On a case-by-case basis, it is determined if harassment is severe or pervasive enough to be criminal.
If you believe the harassment you are experiencing or seeing is sexual, you should review the EEOC’s sexual harassment material.
Am I Working in a Hostile Work Environment?
People may use the phrase “hostile work environment” to describe almost any undesirable job situation.
It could be a snobby supervisor, unfriendly employees, or a dreary workplace with lack of advantages.
While these difficulties can make working conditions unpleasant, they do not always fit the legal definition of a hostile work environment.
A hostile work environment, in technical terms, is a workplace where the behavior of supervisors or coworkers has produced a discriminatory setting that a reasonable person would find so harsh or threatening that it interferes with their capacity to work.
What Makes up a Hostile Work Environment?
If the behavior is discriminatory against gender, race, religion, age, orientation, disability, or nation of origin, the scenario may qualify as a hostile work environment under the law.
It also includes that :
- The work atmosphere would be hostile or abusive to a reasonable person.
- The behavior has become a widespread and long-term issue.
- The employer has done nothing to investigate and resolve the problem.
- The victim’s desire to work, as well as his or her ability to do so, has been harmed.
- The employer was aware of the hostile behavior but did not act quickly enough.
Workplaces that are hostile to employees include:
Being taunted or excluded by your coworkers is impolite and unprofessional, and may result in termination, but it is not always legally hostile. Consider the following examples of workplace harassment:
- Using sexually provocative words or discussing sex activities
- Making disrespectful remarks about people who are members of protected groups
- Making unwelcome comments about a person’s physical appearance
- Using images that are racist or sexually inappropriate
- Using racial slurs or offensive language
- Making unsuitable gestures
- Sabotaging the work or career of an employee
- Unwelcome contact
What is the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC)?
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is the federal agency in charge of enacting and enforcing federal laws prohibiting employers from actively discriminating against employees based on their ethnicity.
They also enact laws on religion, sexual orientation, national origin, age, disability, or genetic information.
This means that any employee in the United States in a corporation, company, or organization has the right to work without being harassed, ridiculed, or picked on in an objectionable manner.
Why are They Refusing to Leave Me Alone at Work?
Most people go to work hoping to accomplish their jobs to the best of their abilities in exchange for a fair wage.
No one goes to work expecting to be confronted with unpleasant, disrespectful, or off-color statements intended to catch them off guard, stress them out, or outright threaten them in the workplace.
When an employee is harassed on the job for any reason, it produces a very stressful working atmosphere.
This stress can cause bodily discomfort and physiological disorders, and, in the long run, can cause an employee to develop chronic disease symptoms!
Claims of a Hostile Work Environment (EEOC)
If an employee knows that a workplace is hostile, the employee should express his or her concerns to human resources or the supervisor/manager at the employment.
To assess if there is a genuine hostile work environment (which is illegal) or a difficult and annoying employment environment, a certain standard must be met (which is unpleasant, but not illegal).
When an employee feels threatened by events or persons in the workplace, the first step is to write down what is going on.
This will document everything that happens in the office.
What Makes up an Offensive Workplace Behavior?
If a person comes to work every day and witnesses other employees engaging in offensive behavior, it lowers morale in the workplace for all employees who witness the behavior.
Harassment can come from the top down, such as from a manager to a subordinate, or from a subordinate to another subordinate.
It could even be an individual or a group of individuals pestering management or upper-level supervisor.
Harassment Must be Managed by Human Resources
Harassment in the workplace, in any form, is “not okay,” and it must be halted quickly whenever it occurs.
This type of workplace behavior should always be reported to higher-ranking management and the human resources department of a corporation, organization, or enterprise.
Some businesses do not have a human resources person on staff, and an out-of-state home office or a business’ remote location office handles such responsibilities.
In that instance, the employee who feels threatened might contact the company’s headquarters to speak with someone about the inappropriate behavior he or she encounters daily at work.
There are many ways to deal with a hostile work environment.
You can seek for help, make your boss aware of the situation with proof and take legal actions.
The aforementioned means can help curb the hostilities you encounter in your workplace.
Frequently Asked Questions