5 Ways to Recognize a Hostile Work Environment

hostile work environment doesn’t just affect individual employees. It can easily disrupt the entire workplace. You should report signs of workplace harassment to your supervisors so they can address them immediately. It’s the best way to avoid workplace harassment going forward.

Certain conditions must be present for a workplace to be considered hostile in a legal sense. An annoying co-worker who talks incessantly about their day isn’t really creating a hostile work environment. A coworker who regularly makes sexually explicit comments or jokes is a different story.

Sometimes it’s difficult to tell the difference between annoying behavior and harassment. Here is a handy list of 5 ways to recognize a hostile work environment:

1. Sexual Harassment

Do you feel a co-worker or supervisor has been getting a bit too ‘touchy’ lately? Do you repeatedly hear sexually inappropriate comments? If so, you may be a victim of a hostile work environment. Despite progress, sexual harassment in the workplace is still common. Sexual harassment refers to offensive, degrading, hostile, or intimidating conditions in the workplace. It doesn’t matter if the person causing the problem is a supervisor or a coworker.

Unwanted behavior ranges from sexually offensive jokes to actual physical molestation. If behavior like this is common in your workplace, it’s important to document it. Make sure to take note of whether the sexual harassment was verbal, physical, or both.

2. Discrimination

Discrimination of any kind is illegal. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 specifically prohibits employment discrimination based on race, age, gender, religion, or national origin.

You will have a strong case for a hostile work environment if a discriminatory act occurs regularly, and it is not stopped after being reported. If you’re not sure if you’re a victim, an employee rights lawyer can help you determine if you suffered discriminatory behavior in the workplace.

3. Pressure To Remain Quiet

Pressure to ignore unfair work practices is a lesser known form of hostile work environment. It’s against the law to retaliate against a whistleblower who reports unsafe or unfair work environments. Whistleblower retaliation is generally present if supervisors do anything to prevent a worker from exposing a hostile work environment. Pressure to remain quiet can take many forms. It doesn’t have to be an overt threat. Your supervisor might pass you over for raises, or give you less desirable work duties.

Pressure on whistleblowers doesn’t always start with management. In some cases, coworkers are the ones who want you to keep quiet about problems in the workplace. It’s common for people to avoid rocking the boat at work at all costs. For legal purposes, your employer is liable for whistleblower retaliation no matter where it’s coming from.

4. Lose a Promotion

Harassment at work can lead to serious emotional and psychological distress. It doesn’t have to result from a single traumatic event, either. Sometimes a constant, low-level stream of slights is even more destructive to an employee’s morale. A demotivated employee may feel reluctant to give their best effort at a job that doesn’t value their performance. That can lead to a loss of productivity. This loss of confidence in your basic ability to perform your job could end up costing you a promotion.

If a supervisor declines to promote you for any reason other than your job performance, you might be able to prove discrimination. This is especially true if the same supervisor promotes other employees of another gender, age, or race.

5. The Supervisor Knew But Didn’t Say Anything

Employers are required to prevent conditions that lead to a hostile workplace. In addition, they’re required to quickly deal with problems when the do arise. If you’ve explained the situation to your employer, but are ignored or suffer retaliation, you might have a strong case for a discrimination lawsuit.

A culture of fairness and dignity creates a positive work environment. Employees must feel safe, and they should be able to report problems when they arise without fear of unfair consequences.

Contact a Labor Lawyer for More Information

In conclusion, there’s no reason to tolerate harassment in the workplace. You should take a series of steps when you have trouble with harassment or discrimination. Firstly, it’s important to inform your supervisor or employer when you recognize a problem. If that doesn’t work, you may receive help from your Human Resources department. In some cases, you might have to confront a coworker yourself if you witness a problem.

You should get advice from a qualified labor lawyer if you feel you’re not being treated fairly at work. In the Los Angeles area, Cathe L. Caraway-Howard specializes in employment law. Her firm has won several high-profile cases that ended workplace discrimination.  Contact her office today for more information.