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It might be toxic, but is it a hostile work environment?

On Behalf of | Nov 3, 2020 | Hostile Work Environment

Millions of Americans who daily make best-faith efforts to do optimal work and promote the bottom line for their employers are happy to do so.

That is, they like their jobs. They enjoy workplace challenges and opportunities, relish the forged union and camaraderie they share with coworkers, and believe that the hard work they do will progressively enhance their career prospects.

Legions of other workers spanning the country feel, well, otherwise.

For starters, there is no positive pulse or sparkle in their workplace. Many work environments – ranging from offices and retail entities to warehouses, construction sites and other venues – are marked far more by fear and even dread than they are by upsides that promote stability and an emotionally healthy workforce.

Workplace behavior might be a problem, but is it unlawful?

Consider the scenario of a work manager who is light years away from being supportive, encouraging and empathetic. He or she might perceive those qualities in other supervisors, but likely harbors the view that being warm and approachable with workers detracts from rather the promotes company goals.

So that manager yells rather than calmly explains. He or she routinely degrades the performance of all workers, sets unrealistic goals for them, lacks self-control in meetings and is just generally a jerk that the entire employee pool dislikes and fears.

That depiction might sound familiar for some readers. The scenario is not uncommon in workplaces.

But does it rise to the level of being unlawful? The above-described behavior is certainly conduct common for a bully, but does it rise to the level where it can become legally actionable when challenged by one or more employees?

The hostile work environment: What exactly is that?

A fair amount of subjectivity can attach to a legal claim involving workplace treatment. One authoritative source discussing antagonistic and intimidating work conditions notes that not every negative action/outburst comprises discrimination or harassment.

Many do, though, as well as does a workplace environment generally marked by what is more than mere unpleasantry. A proven employment law legal team can closely examine the details of what is transpiring in a spotlighted work venue and diligently represent adversely affected workers pursuing bona-fide claims centered on hostile conditions. Telling factors underscoring unlawful behavior centrally include these:

  • Abusive behavior targeting one or more workers that is based upon a protected workplace category such as race, national origin, gender, religion or sexual identity
  • Notably aggressive and provocative comments of a racist or sexual nature, even if not routinely repeated
  • Continued harassment, especially involving physical touching
  • Failure to act by a manager who is aware or should reasonably be aware of workplace hostility

American workers have a right to feel safe and secure in their employment, coupled with a reasonable expectation that they will not be selectively singled out in a harassing or derogatory manner. A hostile work environment need never be endured, with federal and state laws existing that can be invoked to stop it and provide victims with meaningful legal remedies.


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